Adult Children in Collaborative Divorce Process: 10 Benefits You Shouldn't Ignore

As the divorce rate for older adults escalates, so does the number of adultchildren who experience parental divorce. Yet, these adult children frequentlysay that whenever they express their feelings and experiences, the most important people in their lives often ignore and dismiss them, leaving them tofeel invisible, unimportant, confused, and painfully alone.

Carol Hughes, Ph.D.* and Bruce Fredenburg, LMFT*, Orange CountyCollaborative Divorce Coaches and Child Specialists, have recently publishedtheir insightful book Home Will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for AdultChildren of Gray Divorce.

Collaborative Divorce is a family-focused process.
Including the adult childrenin the divorce process benefits them, their parents, the extended family, andthe professional team by:

1. Educating parents that adult children are an integral part of familydynamics. When a couple divorces, their divorce journey and the outcomesimpact their adult children.

2. Acknowledging that family is all about relationships. Three decades ofresearch about late-life divorce indicates that the parent-child relationship isvital to both parents and children throughout their lifespans.

3. Naming the losses confirms their experiences are valid and real. Some ofthe many changes include losing the structure of the family as they havealways known it, potential reduction and/or loss of financial support foryounger adult children, and loss of familial celebrations like holidays,birthdays, and graduations.

4. Addressing the feelings and experiences that are likely to arise from thedivorce of an adult child’s parents. Validating their feelings and experiencescan prevent disruption or destruction of long-term family relationships,including grandparent relationships.

5. Coaching parents how to avoid major pitfalls and protect their respectiverelationships with their adult children and grandchildren going forward. Examples of pitfalls include the danger of enrolling adult children as alliesagainst their other parent or creating loyalty conflicts for adult children byusing them as confidants.

6. Reminding parents that they and their adult children are going throughdifferent experiences. While they might be looking forward to a new life orfeeling relief, their adult children may be grieving real and perceived losses.

7. Enlightening the professional team how adult children are stakeholders intheir parents’ divorce. When their parents meet one-on-one or in collaborativemeetings, adult children can in fact be significant influencers “in the room”,trying to steer parents into positions or toward safety.

8. Recognizing that the rupturing of one’s family is a significant life event foradult children and can impact family relationships well into the future. Including an Adult Child Specialist (“ACS”) on the professional team, who willmeet with the adult children in person, via phone or digital platform, canprovide a valuable service to adult children and their parents by helping themunderstand and preserve their family relationships.

9. Incorporating an ACS, who can help parents to understand the legacy theyare leaving their adult children by modeling how they solve problems. Is it abattle to be won or a problem to be solved? What will their adult children learnand take with them into their current and ongoing relationships?

10. Listening to the voices of adult children. As the only professional whointeracts with the entire family, the ACS gleans a wealth of essentialinformation about family dynamics, emotional triggers and hidden agendasthat can support the professional team in transitioning parents to a successfulresolution. Often the ACS is the one professional that both parents trust andwant to hear from in the collaborative process. This unique role affords theACS the ability to center parents on consensus building.

This post is authored by Carol Hughes, Ph.D. and Bruce Fredenburg, LMFT, Orange County Collaborative Divorce Coaches and Child Specialists and authors of Home will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce and originally published on https://www.cpcal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Collaborative-Practice-Tips-71-October-2020-1.pdf

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