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Health & Sex

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What to Do When Your Children Divorce

Tips for parents whose son or daughter is getting divorced.

Show Your Support for the Divorcing Child

Some parents are relieved that a divorce allows their child to escape a bad relationship. But many feel depressed, angry, fearful, and even guilty if they believe that they haven't done enough to prevent the split. Despite such powerful emotions, Temlock urges parents of a divorcing child to maintain perspective and keep feelings under control.

"Be very understanding that you don't come first and that there's a lot of stress going on right now," she says. "You're the role model. I advise grandparents to try to provide a measure of support to their wounded child and the wounded grandchildren.

"Your child is your child forever, and you need to show some loyalty," she says.

"Now, showing loyalty is not the same as, 'I agree with what you've done,'" she adds. Perhaps a child has damaged the marriage through affairs or other behavior. "In such cases, it is a good strategy to rally around the in-law in hopes of helping the spouse and grandchildren who have already suffered the abuses of that parent. But in most instances, when it is your child with whom you have developed trust and affection, you will want to be all you can be for that child," she says.

What does a son or daughter in the throes of divorce need to hear from a parent? "I know that you're hurting. What can I do to help you?" Temlock says. "You can't take away their pain, but you can give them your strength."

Try Not to Alienate Your Child's Ex

Parents must maintain a balancing act: Support your child, but don't alienate your son- or daughter-in-law. Avoid badmouthing the ex. "You may think you are consoling your daughter when you say, 'You were right to get rid of the lazy bum' or you remind your son, 'She was never top-drawer,'" Temlock writes. "No one wants to hear that she wasted all that time, money, and energy building a relationship that was doomed from the get-go. Instead, acknowledge how hard your child tried to make the marriage work."

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