I was sitting in a coffee shop when I overheard a young adult discussing her recent trip back home. She said she had a great time but was frustrated by will the need to balance the time between her divorced mom and dad. Even though they had been divorced for years, it was clear that she was still experiencing the need to have her parents needs met. She said that she felt pressure to carefully inform her parents about when she was going to visit the other.
It reminded me that even though children grow up, they will always be the children of their parents, and will feel the impact of their relationships for years to come.
With this being a holiday season, there are three ways that adult children and their parents can work together to ensure that old wounds are not reopened.
- Build Boundaries
First, it is incumbent on the adult children who are returning home for the holidays, to build boundaries. The adult child must remind her parents that they are able to enjoy the relationship that she has with each of her parents. It is not a competition, and it should not be made into a competition. Unfortunately, if an adult feels compelled to make sure that their parents are not offended by their relationship with the other parent, that suggests that the parents were originally unsuccessful in distancing their pain and emotions from the children during the divorce. Now, it is important for the adult child to build those boundaries. The adult child now needs to let each of the parents know that they will be spending time with the other parent, and this does not diminish the relationship that she has with either of her parents.
- Protect Grandchildren
Second, it is especially important for an adult child to avoid exposing her own children to ongoing, simmering disputes between grandparents. Often, adult children are bringing their own children home to see their grandparents. It is important for the adult child to firmly inform her parents in advance that her children must be allowed to equally enjoy both of their grandparents. Family systems can be generational. It is important to curtail the continuation of negative emotions from a divorce that may have occurred years ago, but still acts as a drag for the children for years to come. This will not only benefit the adult child, but will also benefit her children moving forward.
- Schedule Visits Out
Third, the adult child can provide an advance schedule to the parents of when she will be in each persons home. The benefit is that it allows each of the adult parents to have expectations about when they will get to spend time with their child and possibly grandchildren. It will also take away the guilt and frustration that I heard in the coffee shop. Firm boundaries in these difficult situations benefit everyone. It almost seems as if the adult child is preparing her own parenting plan for her parents. And the benefit of a parenting plan is that it provides structure and knowledge for everyone involved. It will benefit the adult child establish structure for her own parents during the visit.
If you are in Oregon, and seek a divorce or mediation services, Clarity Law is here to help. Contact us to schedule a consultation.