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I’m a Divorced Parent. How Do I Work Around the Needs of My Adult Children This Holiday Season?

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about your individual situation it is best to seek the advice of an experienced legal professional.

If you are divorced or getting a divorce you may have older children. If you have adult children and are getting a divorce, you might be wondering how to be a good parent to them over the holidays.

1. How Do I Protect My Child When They are an Independent Adult?


When you divorce with younger children, the messages are clear. You are your child’s protector and guardian. You must be there to soothe them and guide them. As an older parent, your responsibility appears to dissipate. But your children are still your children. Protecting your adult children doesn’t mean treating them with kid gloves as if they were a child. Your responsibility to them doesn’t end. Instead, it becomes about treating them with respect, discretion and care.

Respecting your child – their boundaries, their lives, their feelings, can be more delicate when they are a fully grown adult. Instead of controlling what you think your child will do, you can ask them their feelings about the holidays. If they are visiting from college, what would make them feel most at home? The children may prefer to spend their holidays with the parent who is living in the family home, for example. Or they may want to split their time with their parents.

2. How Much Does My Adult Child Need to Know About My Divorce?


The line between oversharing and keeping your child informed is a fine one. Does your child need to know every detail about your relationship and sex life? Probably not. On the other hand, it’s not usually a good idea to keep your child in the dark about your divorce. Your kids will probably sense there is something hidden, even if you don’t say it.

In divorce mediation, older parents can discuss how they plan to present their breakup to their kids. If desired, co-parents can plan how to be a united front for their adult children. Agreeing not to badmouth each other and keep confessions to “broad strokes” can make it easier on adult children.


3. Do I Have to See My Co-Parent If it Makes Me Feel Uncomfortable?


Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to be in the same room as your ex. It’s not always possible to get over your emotions surrounding the break-up and have a cheery get-together. Co-parents who work together in divorce mediation often find it helpful to be proactive about these decisions.

Even though your children are grown up and don’t need a custody schedule, planning ahead to make a compromise – such as spending the holidays with one parent, but making sure to do a Zoom call with the other, can ease tensions and manage expectations.


4. How Can I Keep Up Holiday Traditions?


Holiday traditions are often a team effort, so changing them can be a team effort too. When you work with a divorce mediator, no new aspect of your life is off the negotiating table. If you want to plan with your co-parent who should bake the holiday cookies with the kids, and how to manage the gift-giving ceremony (especially when there are grandkids involved), you can agree to keep up some holiday traditions while making new ones.


5. How Can I Be a Good Grandparent?


If your adult children have children, you might feel emotionally obligated to be a good grandparent. While your grandchildren need you, your needs matter too. Talking to your kids about boundaries can help you negotiate the appropriate amount of child-minding. You can also talk to your kids about how you communicate the divorce to your grandchildren in a way that’s appropriate for young children.


6. Does My Child Need to Be Involved in Money Decisions?


When you get divorced and have adult children, your money decisions can have a profound impact on them. Divorced parents with college-age kids face challenging negotiations about how they agree to pay for their adult children’s education.

Parents’ legal obligations to pay child support drop off after the children are legally adults. In divorce mediation, parents have the opportunity to take control of the dashboard of their financial landscape and make tax-smart decisions about things like college assistance and loans (for example one parent’s income may qualify for assistance and not the other).

As well as the decisions that directly affect college-age children, one of the most responsible things you can do as a parent with older children are to take care of yourself. Negotiating with your ex to make sure you are provided for in your retirement can ease burdens on your adult children, who will have to be responsible for your future care. Decisions about future partners can also affect children. If you are not intentional about your wishes, the law may automatically pass many assets to future or even former spouses.

Many couples getting a California divorce choose to integrate estate planning and retirement planning into their divorce negotiations. Division of social security and retirement accounts are already a key part of the divorce, so being intentional about the divorce decision helps build security for the future. At Divorce Options San Diego, our divorce mediators are qualified financial planners as well as legal experts, who can help older couples look at the big picture of their finances and make careful and considerate plans that keep their children, and even grandchildren in mind.


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How We Can Help You to Support Your Adult Children During Divorce


At Divorce Options San Diego, we are caring, educated West Coast divorce mediators who are certified financial planners with psychoanalytical, legal and financial expertise. We understand that divorcing couples in California and elsewhere face a difficult holiday season with decisions to be made about social distancing, etiquette, emotions and money.
We work with couples getting a West Coast divorce and nationally to help them have a mindful divorce in which they can discuss their options for future life. This includes all financial matters, but also how to move forward as supportive exes (if desired) and co-parents. We help to divorce couples navigate the complicated California divorce process and help you work towards a divorce that is beneficial for you both and complies with California law.
We can work with you, your spouse, and even your adult children to plan the best future for you as a family. We offer in-person mediation (depending on social distancing guidelines), or remote mediations to couples in North America in beyond. We have offices in Solana Beach, CA but use telephone and videoconferencing apps as necessary when one or all parties can’t be present. Please contact us to see how we can help.

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