Adult Children in Family Transition
What about the Adult Children when the Parents divorce?
Left Behind or Fully Involved?
Young adults often are excluded from conversation or ignored as the parents move from a partnership to separate independent households. Whether the changes the family undergoes, as a private family matter or played out publicly, whether seemingly without a hassle or in full- out battle mode, the teens are directly and always affected.
Whatever the parents are each experiencing, the children feel, see, hear and mirror in those behaviours. The anger, denial, wicked arguments, promises, bouts of sadness, uncontrollable outbursts, and crying become contagions within the family. The adult members are grieving their personal losses. Each member in their own way is trying to understand what happened.
And the emotional reactions may not happen to each person at the same time. While parents are trying to pick up the pieces, manage the household, and try to continue parenting, the adult children are fully aware. They too are coping juggling their chores, school work, online social presence and a host of other things important to them in their lives. Do the teens have a voice in the family or do they share their hurt online?
Where’s Home Sweet Home Gone?
For many parents, once the children come along, it’s building roots in a community centred on ‘home sweet home”. Some parents are able to agree that one parent will remain in the matrimonial or family home with the children and the other will find a new home within close vicinity. For these families, inclusiveness aids in healing differences and strengthens their familial bonds.
For the parents who are unable financially to hold onto the home base, it means building two new homes. Without the teens’ direct involvement to answer what’s best for them, who will know what their needs, hopes and wishes are for their own future. Why not involve them?
What will happen to every child’s right and expectation of a safe, secure home? The child’s loss of bearings needs attention sooner than later to bring calmness and restore the fundamental need for safety and security. Take the responsibility to include and listen to each child will assist them to rebuild their sense of self, self-esteem and personhood. They are watching and learning coping and survival skills.
The Gift of a Parent Listening
Children are not to be burdened with parents’ secrets or deep resentment against the other parent. Rather, offer them a quiet place where the child with some confidence can unpack how they are feeling. Take the time to go for a drive, a walk after a meal, or making Sunday brunch time for family discussion.
This is new for all of you. Ask what you can do to help. The responses will be enlightening and informative. Resist the first responsive urge to be defensive or judgmental.
The chaos of adolescence is converging with loss. The young adult hasn’t the financial resources to step out and away from the family home to build their own nest. Facing peer pressures to join a gang or belong to the coolest group, these teens want age-appropriate guidance which delivers guidance and responds to their needs. A parent who is next to them but attuned to other matters aren’t being present in that moment when their child needs them.
A Helping Hand or Two
Within this environment comes the question of what’s next? Getting the teenage children involved with their own child-focused counsellor or family specialist will help the child explore in a safe place their best interests with an experienced professional. You’ll need to get the child’s attention and desire first to want to turn in the right direction.
The safe place means the teen is not being forced to pick sides or be the communications courier between the parents. Each adult child needs to grieve his or her personal losses: family, personality identity, security – in a way that has meaning for them. It’s a positive step in their healing journey.
Whether a parent decides to move forward in the public realm at court or in the private approach through the collaborative process, be the one to speak up about hearing the voice of the adult child.