Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Parents with divorcing children

We often forget or overlook the influence that parents have on their children's divorce and the effect of a child's divorce on their parents. The New York Times published My Child’s Divorce Is My Pain on September 2. Here are two excerpts:

As the ties between parents and adult children have grown closer over the last few decades, more parents find themselves navigating the rocky shoals of divorce, or even the breakup of long-term relationships, right along with their children, some family and marriage experts say.

Parents today are not only more involved in their adult children’s lives but they are also living longer and more active lives, said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at John Hopkins University who was the co-writer of a book on American grandparents. This means, he said, that “it’s much more common for adult children to have their parents still living when they divorce.”

And when children divorce, their parents’ lives are often dramatically changed, an impact that is receiving increasing attention in books, Internet forums and in the courts, where some grandparents find themselves when custodial battles cut them off from grandchildren.


Some family therapists say that many parents feel guilt if they had their own divorces, or wonder if they somehow made mistakes in raising their children. “They may experience some feelings of culpability if they believe that their parenting didn’t adequately prepare their child for long-term relationships, or if they believe that their own marriage served as a poor role model,” said Joshua Coleman, a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ms. Temlock, who wrote “Your Child’s Divorce: What to Expect ... What You Can Do,” published last year, said she went through a stage of “guilt and self-flagellation” during the break-up of her son’s marriage.

“Why didn’t we see this coming?” she and her husband asked themselves. “What could we have done?”

But Ms. Temlock, who has a second son who also ended up divorcing, said that trying to fix or rescue the marriage or wallowing in guilt or pain can make matters worse. “What you want to do,” Ms. Temlock said, is ask, “How can I help you?”

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