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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.

Home In on Your Grandchildren's Needs continued...

Crawford's relationship with the couple deteriorated. Despite taking legal action for visitation, she has not been able to see Adam, now age 13, since 2001. "What makes me so sad is that our daughter wanted him to know how much she loved him and cared for him, and she wished she could have been there for him," Crawford says. "She wanted to make sure that her son stayed in our lives."

When grandparents are denied visitation, experts advise mediation as a first step. If that fails, grandparents who decide to go to court for visitation rights should know that states do not give them a legal right to see the child, but rather, the right to petition the court for visitation, says Brigitte Castellano, executive director of the National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights. But court action should be a last resort, she says. "It creates a lot of hard feelings."

Offer Divorcing Children Financial and Practical Help -- Carefully

It's common for divorcing adults to "run home to Mama," especially if grandchildren are involved, Temlock says. "You're going to see a certain amount of regression. Your child may feel very, very needy."

Divorce can shake up grandparents' finances and daily schedules, too, especially if a child needs to borrow money or move back into their home. "They are looking forward to retirement and they're still supporting their child," Temlock says. Some grandparents will postpone retirement or give up travel and leisure activities to provide childcare -- and many end up exhausted.

When their two sons divorced, the Wallers helped with rent payments, bought home appliances, and spent roughly $10,000 on attorney's fees on behalf of one son, who also moved in with them temporarily.

Gestures of love and support are appropriate, but parents must take care not to engender long-term, unhealthy dependency, Temlock says. Negotiating flexible repayment schedules or a target date for a child to move into his or her own place again can encourage renewed independence after divorce.

Consider, too, how help affects other family members, Temlock says. She once heard a young woman complain that she resented having to attend a community college. But she had little choice because her parents had spent her college funds on an older sister's mortgage payments for several years after her divorce.

"You need to know when to diplomatically withdraw your support so that you are not in a position that you have really taken on too much and it becomes a burden," Temlock says. "Your role is not to provide long-term financial support. Your goal is to point your child toward financial independence. Doing too much is as bad as doing too little."

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Reviewed on November 20, 2008

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