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My Child Is Getting Divorced: What Should I Do?

Posted on in Divorce

child's divorce, Naperville divorce attorneyDivorce is often a painful experience for everyone involved. Even when a divorce happens for all the right reasons, the process is still stressful and emotional. Spouses going through a divorce face a long emotional process likely including a mix of pain, sadness, anger, nervousness, frustration, and regret. If children are involved, they will be dealing with their own mix of emotions, and may even take the divorce harder than the parents. When divorce happens, we often tend to sympathize with the couple themselves, and any children involved. But what about another party that likely faces the challenge of coping with divorce: the parents of the divorcing couple? Watching a child get divorced can be one of the most painful and difficult experiences a parent can go through.

You may fear for their future well-being, question your own parenting, and, if grandchildren are involved, you may worry about them and your ability to see them. Parents should do their best to be strong and supportive for their child, which can be difficult when they themselves are likely grieving the end of the marriage as well. If your child is about to divorce or already in the middle of the divorce process, experts recommend following a few tips to ensure that you are as supportive and helpful as possible to your child.

What Did I Do Wrong?

All too often, when a child announces their divorce to their parents, the parents reaction is guilt. What did I do wrong? Is this my fault? Was I a bad parent? Asking yourself these questions is common, and while it is okay to struggle with feeling shame and guilt towards your child’s divorce, dwelling on these feelings is not beneficial. Your child is going to need your help during this process, be it emotionally or financially, and you need to focus your energy on the help you can provide. Remind yourself that your child is an adult, and the divorce they are facing is a result of their choices, not yours. No marriage is perfect. No parent is perfect. Every parent has a story or two of some way they might have negatively affected their child. Does that mean this divorce is your fault? No. Grieve and process your child’s divorce in a healthy manner, and then prepare to help them when needed.

“Like their divorcing children, parents have to grieve,” writes one divorce expert and author. “Following the initial shock and denial, there is a healthy period of mourning, leading to acceptance and recovery.” Following that process, parents need to refocus on the priority in the situation; their child. “Be very understanding that you do not come first and that there is a lot of stress going on right now. You are the role model. I advise grandparents to try to provide a measure of support to their wounded child and the wounded grandchildren.”

How Can I Support My Child?

During their divorce, your child is likely going to rely on you now more than ever. You can start helping your child from the moment they share with you that they are getting a divorce. It is common for children to be nervous about announcing their divorce to their parents. They expect to be scolded, or be told “I told you this relationship was bad news.” Or, they expect you to be hurt and let down, and feel like they are destroying the dreams you had for their future. In either case, your response needs simply to be one of support and love. You are on your child’s team, so rally around them. Show your loyalty to your child, and make yourself available to help through every step of the process. Experts recommend something along the lines of “I know that you are hurting. What can I do to help you?” Then, follow through with that offer to help. All too often, people say they are available to help, but simply say it and leave it at that. While a person is grieving, they are not likely to reach out for help when they need it. As a parent, do your best to understand what your child needs help with, and start helping. If they seem hungry, cook for them. If they have an important court date, go with them, or stay home and take care of your grandchild.

Showing support can be difficult in cases where your child may have caused the end of the marriage. “Showing loyalty is not the same as, “I agree with what you have done,” says an expert. Maybe your child had an affair, or developed some other behavior that led to the deterioration of their marriage. You may have a tough time supporting your child, but in most cases, you still have a responsibility to be their for them. You likely have a relationship with your child’s spouse, and helping them is okay as well. Just make sure that at the end of the day, your child knows that you truly support them too.

Experts say that during the divorce process, your child will likely get an abundance of advice from a variety of sources. As a parent, one of the best choices you can make is to be a source of love and listening.

What About My Child’s Ex?

Most parents develop loving relationships with their child’s spouse, so watching a child’s marriage dissolve can be especially difficult. Can you maintain a relationship with your child’s ex? Experts say yes, but to proceed with caution. A good rule to keep in mind is to avoid badmouthing your child’s ex whenever possible. You may think you are consoling your child by saying things like “You were right, she was never right for you,” or “Oh good, he was never going anywhere in life anyways,” but the best choice is to remain neutral. The couple very well may get back together at some point, and if children are involved, the two parents are at the very least going to need to remain in each other’s lives somewhat. Anything bad you say about your child’s ex could easily come back to haunt you.

What About My Grandchild?

Watching a grandchild suffer can be extremely devastating. While you cannot simply step in and assume the role of parent, you can show your grandchild your love and support, and help reassure them that they are part of a larger family network. Experts say this is important, because children often fear abandonment during their parent’s divorce. Like adults, children worry about the future, and during divorce, ask questions like “Who is going to take care of me? Where am I going to live? What about my school? Will my parents leave me?”

As a grandparent, you can be a source of reassurance. “You need to remove the grandchild from stressful situations,” says one expert, “and one of the things you can do is provide some stability in your own home.” Experts recommend keeping a routine with your grandchild. Cook dinner at the same time each night you are with them. Keep their toys in the same place. Do homework with them each day. Routine provides a sense of consistency and comfort to children, and maintaining routines is especially important for children during times of transition.

Watching your child get divorced can be painful, but your role as a parent is to provide help when needed. Avoid blaming yourself or feeling guilty, and instead ask yourself what you can do to help your child through the difficult process. One of the biggest ways you can help your child is by ensuring that they are working with a quality divorce attorney. The attorneys at the Pesce Law Group, P.C., have handled a wide variety of divorce related cases, and will work tirelessly to ensure a beneficial outcome for your child and any grandchildren. Call 630-352-2240 or visit us online to learn more about the services we provide, and to schedule a consultation with one of our Naperville divorce attorneys today.


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