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Supporting Your Grieving Child | The Rejected Parent Newsletter

This newsletter is for parents who are being rejected by their children and those who support them. I will be sending regular newsletters to give suggestions and support to parents dealing with rejection from their children on all levels. I generally support parents whose children are 18 years and under; however, some of this will apply to parents with adult children as well.

People grieve for many reasons and not just because of a loved one who has passed. When a family goes through a separation or divorce, the child’s world turns upside down and inside out. Children grieve what their family home used to be like. They grieve seeing both of their parents every day, like in their old routine. They miss their friends, schools, and extended families. They miss the future that was promised to them: living with both of their parents.

For most children, the idea of their parents separating is unimaginable. Even if there has been a lot of fighting, many children are still caught off guard by the news. The fact that their friends' parents are divorced doesn’t make them consider the possibility for their own family. They have always pictured their parents staying together in the same home, so the reality of their family falling apart can be a profound shock. 

Children often resort to imaginative ways to cope with their parents' separation. For instance, a little girl I once met would try to hold her parents' hands together when her dad came to pick her up from her mom’s home. This simple act was her way of trying to reunite her parents, even though she couldn't articulate it.

Even as an adult, a child may wish for their parents to stay together. In another story, an adult child in their twenties- whose parents were in the process of a divorce- threw them a big anniversary party to keep them from separating. 

Children become sad when their parents split up, and they feel something is missing. They want to have things go back to the way they were. They don’t want to live in separate homes and move back and forth. Their whole routine is thrown off. Maybe one parent always takes them to school while the other makes a home-cooked breakfast. After the parents separate, there is only one parent in each home, and breakfast may be a granola bar or frozen waffle in the car. It’s just too much for the parents who are now alone to do everything that two parents did. 

In addition to each parent trying to fill the shoes of both parents as they each spend time with their child, parents are also under a severe amount of stress as they fight over money, possessions, and custody. As a result, their children’s suffering is often overlooked and can even be exasperated from being around so much fighting. Children need their parents’ help to adjust to the changes the family is experiencing. 

One way that parents can help to prevent or decrease the amount of grief is by making sure that their support network and family are still in their children’s lives. Trying to keep their lives as similar as they were before the separation without changing activities, friends, family contact, and schools as much as possible will help minimize some of their grief.

-Cathy Himlin


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