How To Support Your Adult Child Through Their Divorce

Prudence Henschke is a Certified Divorce Coach and former Family Lawyer with over 18 years’ experience in the Family Law field.

All parents want their children to be happy. So, when your child’s marriage ends, it can be difficult to see them struggling, but at the same time, hard to know how to help.

Here are five ways to support your adult child through divorce.

Be careful about the information and opinions you share.

Family law outcomes are very case specific. Sharing information based on your own experience or the experiences of people you know, can be more harmful than helpful, if your child’s factual situation differs from the one you are drawing on.

Be mindful of providing unsolicited opinions and advice. When someone has a problem, it is natural to want to help fix it. Do not presume, particularly if your child already has professionals supporting them, they need solutions. All they may want, and need from you, is to listen.

Be intentional with the words you choose when talking about their ex-partner. When your child is in pain, it is normal to feel hurt, anger and disappointment towards their ex. However, it is sometimes the case, months after separation, couples reconcile – which could prove awkward if you share “what you really thought about ….”

Even if the separation is permanent, while you may want to validate your child’s feelings, in the interests of promoting a positive co-parenting relationship and your future relationship with your ex-son/daughter in law, the saying if you cannot say anything nice, is worth bearing in mind. In a similar vein, it is especially important to avoid speaking negatively about the divorce or ex in the presence or hearing of the grandchildren.

Conflict between parents can lead to negative outcomes for children during separation and beyond, so if you can play a role in taking the heat out of the situation, rather than adding fuel to the fire, this can only help the whole family dynamic moving forward.

Build a support team.

As a parent you provide important emotional and practical support in this process, but you shouldn’t need to be involved in every aspect it.

In the early days following a separation, your child is likely to feel overwhelmed. Meeting with an appropriately qualified person like a lawyer or Divorce Coach can provide them with clarity and direction.

Depending on the situation, it may be appropriate for your child to build a team of supports including a lawyer, psychologist, Divorce Coach, Accountant, and Financial Advisor.

Seek referrals where possible from friends, family, or other professionals. A team of skilled experts should not only ease the burden on your child but help make the process quicker and easier.

Encourage them to learn from experts and connect with other single parents.

In our digital world, there are excellent free resources online which cover the full gamut of topics around separation and divorce, co-parenting, and life beyond divorce. Books and podcasts can be a helpful resource to be empowered through education (if the information is from a reputable, qualified source). Being well informed can help your child make good decisions and streamline the process. Connecting with others going through the same emotional journey can help your child feel less alone and cope better emotionally.

Provide practical support to ease their load.

The to-do list which comes with separation can be long. Meetings with professionals, potentially preparing a house for sale or moving, completing forms, and collating documents are among the additional tasks beyond the usual work/parenting/life admin. Offer to baby-sit your grandchildren so your child has time to check things off, or take care of themselves. Likewise taking anything off their everyday to do list – cooking, cleaning, garden maintenance is likely to be helpful. If you aren’t living nearby or your health means you can’t provide practical help, consider arranging for service providers to help with the tasks you would do, if you were able.

Be mindful of your own capacity/mental health.

Divorce is one of life’s most stressful events, so when you are watching your child navigate the process, it is likely you will take on some of the worry and stress. A divorce can feel more like a marathon, than a sprint and your child may need your support for longer than you anticipate. To be able to show up fully for your child for the duration of their divorce, be conscious of taking care of your own health and wellbeing.

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