You may have a good idea of what they’re going through if you’ve been divorced. If not, your child is experiencing a stressful and possibly traumatic experience. They need love, support, and understanding. They don’t need to hear from someone who is judgmental and wants to blame someone.
They may have been in a bad, possibly abusive, relationship, so this may be good news. If the marriage was a weight pulling them down, a divorce will lighten their load in the long term and put them on a new path. Your child may be on an emotional roller coaster, moving from relief to anger, fear, and guilt, so be prepared for the ride.
As best as you can, be a role model. Support them emotionally and give them the best advice you can. If their needs are beyond what you can provide, find a support group or therapist who may be able to help. If there are times you don’t know what to say, you may feel like you’re not doing any good. Just giving your time and being with your child may be enough.
Don’t Bash the Ex
You may think you’re making your child feel better by saying how awful their spouse is and supporting their decision to end the marriage. But your child may feel embarrassed, stupid, or foolish because they invested so much time, effort, and emotion into a marriage with such a terrible person.
Attacking the spouse is a particularly bad approach if the two have children. The spouse will probably still play a significant role in your grandchildren’s lives. Don’t complicate relationships by telling your grandkids they’re better off without the other parent or trying to prevent them from seeing each other.
Be Loyal Up to a Point
Let your child know you’ll be there for them through the divorce and beyond. If your child’s way of coping involves substance abuse, get them help. If the marriage broke up because of your child’s bad behavior (lying, being unfaithful, drinking too much or using drugs, refusing to get mental health care), be loyal by trying to help them work through their faults and getting them the help they need. If they continue their bad ways in their relationship with you, you must set hard limits on what’s acceptable and enforce boundaries.
Don’t Be a Bulldozer Parent
As much as you want to help, and as distraught as your child may be, they need to work through this themselves. You can’t do this for them. Steer them into thinking about issues they must resolve and ask questions to help their thought process. Don’t game plan their future life or give them a checklist of what to do and not do. Give advice, and don’t issue orders.
Avoid ‘I Told You So’
You may have seen the divorce coming for a long time because they weren’t a good fit. You may have even told your child this before they married. Don’t build yourself up by tearing your child down. They have enough problems. They’re second-guessing and maybe blaming themselves for the situation. Don’t pour salt into the wounds.
Tell Them They Should Talk to An Attorney
If your child is thinking about divorcing or their marriage is breaking apart, they should contact Karen A. Ulmer, P.C., to learn how we can help. We can explain divorce law, help them understand their rights and responsibilities, and suggest the best way to start a new life.