What to Do When Your Children Divorce
Tips for parents whose son or daughter is getting divorced.
Show Your Support for the Divorcing Child continued...
"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."
Besides, the couple might reunite someday or stay connected after the divorce, and your words could come back to haunt you, Temlock says. And remember, no matter what happens, having a respectful relationship with your ex-in-law helps to keep open the gateway to your grandchildren.
Don't alienate the in-law's extended family, either, Temlock advises. She recalls one grandfather who refused to stand by his ex-in-laws at their grandson's bar mitzvah. "He was so angry at the in-laws -- and this was many years after his daughter's divorce -- that he refused to stand next to them and receive the Torah," she says. "Can you imagine this beautiful occasion and this grandfather was so set in his anger that he couldn't even make a public display of conciliation?"
Take the high road, Temlock advises. Behave civilly, even if for no other reason than to protect your grandchildren's feelings.
Home In on Your Grandchildren's Needs
Grandparents can't replace parents, but they can give grandchildren a sense that they belong to a larger family network, Temlock says. That matters a lot because children often fear abandonment after a divorce. They feel insecure and worry about the future, she writes: "Who will take care of me? Where will I live, go to school? Where will we get money? Where are my parents going to live? Will the other parent leave, too?"