Saturday, August 15, 2015

Senior Spotlight: Helping Your Adult Children Through Divorce

When we personally go through trauma, it can be difficult for us. When our children or grandchildren go through something traumatic, it can be even worse.

On the Social Adjustment Rating Scale developed by Dr. Thomas Holmes and Dr. Richard Rahe of the University of Washington School of Medicine, divorce is one of the highest-ranking stressful life events, second only to the death of a spouse. Unfortunately, divorce is something that over half of married people go through at some point in their life.

As a family mediator, I have guided countless couples through the divorce process. I try to keep them focused on the positive and the future. If there are children involved, I try to help them remember to put the best interests of the children first.

Here is what you can do to help your children and grandchildren through this stressful life transition:

1.     Let your adult child and his or her spouse both know that you are there for them.  Chances are your daughter-in-law or son-in-law developed a special bond with you during their marriage to your child. Especially if he or she was married to your son or daughter a long time, you are probably like a second mother or father to them. In addition to the loss of their marriage, they may very likely be grieving the loss of their relationship with you. Remember that they are the father or mother of your grandchildren and try to maintain the relationship as best as possible.

2.     Although grandparents may not officially have rights in the state of Florida, grandparents do play a very important role in the lives of grandchildren.  Reassure your grandchildren that you and their parents love them very much and will always be there for them even if the living situation has changed. Continue to reach out to your grandchildren any way you can regardless of their parents’ marital status or living situation. It only takes one loving, responsible adult to making a lasting positive impact on a child going through trauma.

3.     Be careful not to speak ill of your former daughter or son-in-law especially in front of the grandchildren. Children identify with their parents so when you insult a parent in front of a child, you insult the child.

4.     Remember that most people most of the time are doing the best they can even though it may seem they are not. Try to not judge them.

5.     Hang in there and don’t be afraid to talk to a trusted friend, counselor or pastor about your own feelings about your child’s divorce. It is a loss for you as well. It’s okay to get the support you need. Encourage your children to do the same.

6.     Unless you suspect domestic violence, severe mental illness, or criminal intent, recommend that your children consider mediation. If a couple is able to go through the divorce process with a mediator, they can save themselves from much financial and psychological damage. Indeed, handling a divorce through the help of a caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable mediator can significantly decrease the stressful impact of this traumatic life event for the couple. Learn more at

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