It seems like only yesterday that your son or daughter was walking down the aisle to say “I do.” Now you’re being told about their impending divorce. For many parents, hearing this news can feel like a punch in the gut. You naturally want the best for your child, and, frankly, this is not what you envisioned. You may also be mourning the personal loss of a relationship you had with a son- or daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, life has a way of upending even the best laid plans, and now the only way to proceed is to look for ways to help your child. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Provide emotional support
You may or may not be surprised to hear about the divorce. Either way, there’s a good chance you have plenty of questions and concerns. Keep in mind that now may not be the time to delve into the how and why. Instead, offer unconditional support. It wasn’t easy for your child to share the news that their marriage is over. For right now at least, it’s better to focus on how you can help during this difficult time.
With that in mind, remember that your job is not to fix everything for your son or daughter. He or she will have plenty to deal with, from dividing up the shared property to possible custody issues. During this time, you can be a listening ear and a source of support. Limit your involvement to what your child asks of you rather than trying to control the situation.
Keep your opinions to yourself
This is also not the time to offer your opinion about your child’s marriage or ex-spouse. This can be challenging for most parents, especially if they feel their child has been wronged. Even if you think you saw it coming or you never warmed up to their ex-spouse in the first place, bite your tongue. Sharing your opinion won’t help at this point. What your child needs most is for you to listen.
Listening should occur without judgment or criticism. It’s tempting to delve into specifics about what went wrong, but your child needs encouragement. And that’s where you should place your focus. Keep in mind that reconciliation sometimes happens, and you don’t want to say things that could come back to haunt you if that occurs. So, try to stay as neutral as possible. Let your child do the talking while you do the listening.
Be there for your grandchildren
If children are involved, you can play a big role as their grandparent. First, they need to know that your love for them will never waver, despite how their family is changing. Regardless of your grandchild’s age, this is a time of great upheaval in their life. You can provide a steady and strong relationship through it all. Offer to babysit, and plan some adventures you and your grandchild can share together. If your grandchild does not live nearby, more frequent calls and texts can only help as you strive to provide a solid connection moving forward.
Above all, remember that your child’s ex-spouse is still your grandchild’s parent, and the parent-child relationship needs to be preserved if at all possible. So keep any opinions you might have about your child’s ex to yourself, despite how difficult that may be. It won’t do your grandchild any good to hear about the shortcomings of a parent, and alienating a child from a parent can be especially damaging.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.