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 adult children who experience parental divorce. Yet, these adult children frequently say that whenever they express their feelings and experiences, the most important people in their lives often ignore and dismiss them, leaving them to feel invisible, unimportant, confused, and painfully alone.
Carol Hughes, Ph.D.* and Bruce Fredenburg, LMFT*, Orange County Collaborative Divorce Coaches and Child Specialists, have recently published their insightful book Home Will Never Be the Same Again: A Guide for Adult Children of Gray Divorce.
Collaborative Divorce is a family-focused process.
Including the adult children in the divorce process benefits them, their parents, the extended family, and the professional team by:
1. Educating parents that adult children are an integral part of family dynamics. When a couple divorces, their divorce journey and the outcomes impact their adult children.
2. Acknowledging that family is all about relationships. Three decades of research about late-life divorce indicates that the parent-child relationship is vital to both parents and children throughout their lifespans.
3. Naming the losses confirms their experiences are valid and real. Some of the many changes include losing the structure of the family as they have always known it, potential reduction and/or loss of financial support for younger adult children, and loss of familial celebrations like holidays, birthdays, and graduations.
4. Addressing the feelings and experiences that are likely to arise from the divorce of an adult child’s parents. Validating their feelings and experiences can prevent disruption or destruction of long-term family relationships, including grandparent relationships.
5. Coaching parents how to avoid major pitfalls and protect their respective relationships with their adult children and grandchildren going forward. Examples of pitfalls include the danger of enrolling adult children as allies against their other parent or creating loyalty conflicts for adult children by using them as confidants.
6. Reminding parents that they and their adult children are going through different experiences. While they might be looking forward to a new life or feeling relief, their adult children may be grieving real and perceived losses.
7. Enlightening the professional team how adult children are stakeholders in their parents’ divorce. When their parents meet one-on-one or in collaborative meetings, 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 for adult children and can impact family relationships well into the future. Including an Adult Child Specialist (“ACS”) on the professional team, who will meet with the adult children in person, via phone or digital platform, can provide a valuable service to adult children and their parents by helping them understand and preserve their family relationships.
9. Incorporating an ACS, who can help parents to understand the legacy they are leaving their adult children by modeling how they solve problems. Is it a battle to be won or a problem to be solved? What will their adult children learn and take with them into their current and ongoing relationships?
10. Listening to the voices of adult children. As the only professional who interacts with the entire family, the ACS gleans a wealth of essential information about family dynamics, emotional triggers and hidden agendas that can support the professional team in transitioning parents to a successful resolution. Often the ACS is the one professional that both parents trust and want to hear from in the collaborative process. This unique role affords the ACS 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