When parents’ divorce, their children are affected, even children who are no longer “children”. Today there are families experiencing divorce after 25, 35, 45 years of marriage. Not only are adult children involved, but there may be grandchildren facing these transitions as well. Every family is different and children’s thoughts and feelings about their parent’s or grandparent’s divorce may impact the family dynamics.
In a Collaborative Divorce Process, we offer the use of an Adult Child Specialist who is a licensed mental health professional trained in family systems, child development and the needs of adult children during and after divorce. The role of the Child Specialist is to: 1) provide adult child/children an opportunity to talk about their parent’s separation and divorce and explore how that will impact their own life; 2) provide parents with information and guidance to help their adult children deal with the adjustment period of restructuring the family.
As parents prepare to divorce, they are likely focused on their own circumstances. Frequently, parents have difficulty understanding how their children are feeling because the parent may be in their own grieving process about the end of their marriage. Adult children, not having any control over their parent’s situation, may have significant feelings to process or things they want to say but don’t know how. When there are siblings, each child’s experience may feel differently than a sibling because of age, gender, temperament, or because of their historical relationship with either parent prior to the announcement of the separation and divorce. These differences have a ripple effect on the entire family, especially when there are disagreements.
The Adult Child Specialist first meets with both parents to hear their perspectives and concerns about their children. The Child Specialist then meets individually with each child. This is not therapy. It is a one-time meeting either in person or by video conference call. The adult child/children have an opportunity to discuss their concerns, develop new ideas, gain insight about how to improve communication, or ask for things they need from their parents during this time.
The Adult Child Specialist, with the permission from the adult child/children may share some of the concerns, feelings or discussion with the parents and the collaborative team. The specialist may also add his/her observations of meeting with the adult child/children and make suggestions to the parents so they can improve their relationship with their children, while everyone is navigating divorce-related changes and challenges. Parents find this information very helpful.
Summary Prepared by:
Betsey Williams, LMFT, Collaborative Divorce Coach
Linda Tell, RN, LMFT, Collaborative Divorce Coach