As parents, we all want to be there to support our children in the best way we can, whether they’re kiddos or whether they’ve grown up and left home and started their own lives. Here’s some tips for parents whose adult children are going through their own separation or divorce – learn how to best support not only your adult children but also your grandchildren.
Top 3 Tips: Helping Adult Children Through Separation or Divorce
Encourage your adult child to consider a positive and healthy separation or divorce. Often adult children will come to their parents for advice or to vent about their situation. Irrespective of how you feel about their soon-to-be-ex, you can encourage them to be civil, especially when you have grandchildren. I have lots of resources on our Henka Divorce website to help divorcing families to learn positive ways to separate, and by doing your own research, you can help your adult child to learn that these options exist.
Think of ways that you can be there to support your adult child. Financial support, respite support, and emotional support.
Financial support – you may want to help them set up a new residence, care for the grandchildren to help reduce expenses, co-sign for a loan, or help them with professional fees. It’s important to document this properly to properly characterize it as either a loan or a gift.
Respite Support – would it help if you took the grandkids for an overnight or a weekend? Maybe you could clean the house, or drive the grandkids to their activities periodically, or even bring over a meal here and there.
Emotional Support – be a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to just listen. Hold back your own feelings about the former relationship – whether you are glad for the breakup or wish it weren’t so, sometimes expressing your true feelings can cause your adult child’s emotions to escalate rather than to be soothed and calmed. Allow your child to find their own path.
Be flexible – Your adult child will be going through a lot. When family gatherings come up, canvas your adult child as to what works for them and your grandchildren. Especially in the first year of separation, when every holiday is a new experience and new traditions are being created, it’s hard for adult children to be pulled in lots of different directions with extended family pressures. Show that you are flexible and can work around their availability. Do everything possible to take pressure off for them where holidays and occasions are concerned.
Top 3 Tips: Helping Your Grandchildren Through High Conflict Parent’s Separation or Divorce
If your adult child is experiencing a separation or divorce, so too are your grandchildren experiencing this life transition from a one-household childhood to two. Here are my top 3 tips to do your part to help them build resilience
Be there as a support for your grandchildren as much as you can. They will be experiencing various emotions about their journey moving from one-home into two, and any positive support or a shoulder to lean on that they can get will be beneficial to them. Avoid prying for information about the divorce, but allow them to talk if they initiate. Grandparents can be a great diversion for the grandkids, to offer them loads of fun and drama-free time to help them get their minds off what may otherwise be a very stressful time for the grandkids.
Maintain a united front with the parents, so that your messaging is consistent. Talk with the parents to understand how they’ve approached conversations about the separation with the children, and what their messaging has been. It is not the grandparents’ role to explain things to their grandchildren, rather it’s their job to reinforce the parents’ messaging or refer the grandkids back to their parents.
Always speak positively about both parents. Even though you may feel more aligned towards your own adult child, ensure that your grandchildren are none-the-wiser. Just like one parent should avoid speaking negatively about the other parent where the children are in ear-shot, so too should the grandparents avoid this negativity. It puts the grandchildren in a terrible spot, typically wanting to defend their parents and creating a divide.
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