So Your Adult Child Is Getting Divorced—Here's How to Help

Updated 04/22/19
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As a parent, you want to be there to help your children through every life milestone—the good and the bad. Unfortunately, this can sometimes include supporting your adult child as they go through a divorce with their spouse. 

While it's a challenging situation, there are ways to help your child navigate this obstacle. In fact, psychologist Marsha Temlock wrote an entire book on the subject titled Your Child's Divorce. The text breaks down exactly what to expect and how you can help your child during their split. 

Although there's no one way to be there for your kids, the psychologist offers a wealth of information in her popular book. Ahead, discover Temlock's advice for supporting adult children who divorce. Here's how she suggests you take on the challenge.

Part 1: Accepting the Decision

By the time you learn that your adult child is planning to divorce, they've likely been living with the situation for a while. Although you may feel blindsided by the news, Temlock believes that it's crucial to keep your cool and focus on what your child needs from you.

Rather than getting emotional or upset, start by supporting your child in whatever way they may need. Temlock advises that you don't go searching or asking for explanations. Perhaps you know, or think you know, the reasons for your child's marital difficulty, but you may not know or need to know the whole story.

Additionally, it's important to not immediately start revealing problems you may have with your child's spouse or their family because, as Temlock points out, some couples reconcile. In that case, your criticism could come back to haunt you.

Finally, remember that this isn't your problem to fix. Temlock suggests you resist the urge to insist on counseling or paying for some expensive couples retreat. It's important to realize that your child and their spouse may have already tried to make things work or may simply not be interested in patching things up. Instead, a willing ear and unconditional love should get your and your child through those difficult early days.

Part 2: Dealing With Change

After you've accepted the divorce, you can begin to deal with all of the changes that are to come for you and your child. Temlock explains that staying neutral during your child's divorce isn't likely since you'll probably want to take your child's side over their spouse's. However, you'll still want to do your best to support your child without doing anything that would make a working relationship with their in-laws more difficult than it likely already will be.

If you're feeling emotionally devastated by these new changes yourself, Temlock urges you to take steps towards your own recovery. This could be anything from limiting sacrifices and setting priorities to taking time for yourself or even getting counseling if necessary.

Part 3: Strengthening Family Bonds

If you're a grandparent, you may also need to be there to help your grandchildren through the divorce. While it may be hard to see your grandkids upset or acting out, Temlock thinks that it's important to realize that young kids may take longer to process such a difficult situation.

You may also be asked to help out more with your child's kids by providing childcare or even a place for them to stay. If you're able to help in this area, that's great, but if it feels like too much handle, that's okay too. If this is the case, Temlock assures that it's okay to limit your commitments.

Of course, family relationships can always become more complicated, too. For instance, after the divorce, your child could remarry and bring step-grandchildren into your life or give more grandparents to your grandkids.

If this feels stressful, remember that oftentimes you and your grandchildren can become closer during these difficult times, Temlock points out.

The Bottom Line

Although every family and divorce is different, Temlock makes an effort to encompass a variety of different situations. For instance, you might find yourself sharing a home with your grandchildren or losing contact with them. You might be able to maintain a cordial relationship with your child's ex or you may face a more difficult situation. However, no matter what, you'll find ways to support your adult child during and after their divorce.

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