What to do when your adult child divorces

October 13, 2015

You may feel emotional and at fault upon hearing the news that your grown child is getting divorced. The below tips can help you help both yourself and your child during the end of his or her marriage.

What to do when your adult child divorces

Allow yourself and your child time to grieve

Grief comes in many forms. Your child may have been grieving the end of the relationship for a long time and is nearly finished by the time he or she announces the divorce. Just because he or she shows no outward emotion does not mean he or she is apathetic. On the other hand, your child's grief may seem excessive to you. Whatever shape it takes, let your child grieve while reassuring him or her you are there for support. Provide love and do not pass on any judgement.

As for your own grief, you are likely struggling with shame, guilt and a feeling of responsibility. That is normal, and counselling or a support group may help. The divorce might also have you questioning your relationship or your marriage. Give yourself the time you need to see clearly.

Set boundaries

Boundaries may become ambiguous, especially if the divorce means your child is moving back home. Your routine may be affected, particularly if grandchildren are also suddenly living with you. Set clear rules and expectations. Proactively discuss issues such as your child's privacy, your privacy and contributions to housekeeping and expenses.

You want to support your child, but you do not want to foster co-dependency. Encourage your child to find his or her own solutions and to maintain healthy habits. This goes for money as well. Don't do anything financially that makes you uncomfortable.

Find healthy outlets for stress

Divorce is stressful, even if you are not the one splitting. Ensure you make time for yourself and activities, especially if your child and any grandchildren have moved back home.

Be civil

Some ex-in-laws remain civil or on friendly terms. Whether you want to continue a relationship with your former in-law depends on your relationship with them prior to the divorce, but don't foster bad relations. If you can't be civil, you are better off leaving the spouse alone.

If you are able to remain friendly, do so in a way that does not affect your support for your child. Similarly, do not bad mouth your former in-law. When you do that, you devalue the work and love your child put into the marriage.

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