My brother and his ex-wife, who live in another country, had what was considered an amicable divorce nine years ago.
Their daughter was in grade seven and their son in high school. With counselling, some expensive technology “treats” from their mother and a trip with their father, they seemed to adjust.
Now that they’re older, the rest of our family sees the real damage below the surface.
My brother had moved out from their large family home in an expensive neighbourhood. He moved into a fancy condo but was rarely there, which his son realized was a perfect place to entertain his friends when his father travelled on business.
My sister-in-law got the house, but she was losing her son without recognizing it. Eventually, she met someone else, and moved into his place. She then sold her house and invested the proceeds.
Her son, now 27, and possibly guided by his father, has initiated a lawsuit saying that house was only given to his mother for the role she then had of raising the kids there.
Their “joint custody” had the kids based at that house with my brother having visits there and equal say on matters such as schooling.
My nephew’s case is based on their mother “owing” each child half of the funds of the sale. His sister is less aggressive in spirit. She says she’ll go along with saying she should get a share, but she’d settle with each of them plus her mom receiving one third.
Since my brother, his ex-wife and children all live in a different legal jurisdiction from here, I have no idea whether this lawsuit will proceed, how long it’ll take (or how much it’ll cost... although I privately think my brother may be backing it).
But it’s a terrible view of how even a so-called amicable divorce can affect children for years afterward.
I also know that the mother’s distraught about her children’s attitude towards her, especially her son’s rejection.
I know you’ve always told your readers that divorce is hard on children and to try their hardest to help them adjust.
But this has gone way beyond that level. Your thoughts on this extreme situation?
PS. I always thought my sister-in-law was a good mother.
Sad Sister and Aunt
It’s an ugly turn of events, whether or not the laws in their jurisdiction allow the case to be heard.
But the family breakup is still ongoing, and the adult children are still reacting. The son is punishing his mother beyond rejecting her.
His sister’s caught between them, holding onto her only sibling while also suggesting some fairness for her mom.
The lawsuit is being used to keep the divorce still in play, with at least both son and mother still suffering internally in pain.
Here’s my advice: Focus on these children of divorce outside of the lawsuit. They need love, outreach, and regular contact as members of your family. Wherever they live, this can be done virtually and must be maintained.
They have trust issues which will cloud all their adult relationships. When you feel a rapport is established, suggest that they deal with those feelings from an adult’s view now, and not from a child’s experience.
Tell them they’d benefit their own lives if they entered a process of counselling.
Frame it as a necessary support for their adult self-image, and confidence in dating/relationships based on who they are and can be, not on their past views and hurts as children of divorce.
My daughter’s very popular, always on the phone, always hanging out.
Recently her bestie invited two other girls over, excluding her!
She found out because she invited that same bestie over but was told, “I can’t.” She asked why and was ghosted. One of the other girls told her.
What should I advise my daughter to do?
Help your daughter work through this by looking at anything missed, e.g., had her friend been getting closer with someone else, while your daughter was very busy?
Had she been sticking only to this bestie and two others? Help her recognize that too-narrow reliance on too few people can cause this problem.
Advise that she not keep pursuing this friend, but reach out just once more in a couple of weeks only to say “Hi, how’s it going?”
If the friend offers a reason for distancing, your daughter should apologize sincerely, once only.
Tip of the day:
Adult children of divorce can re-learn relationship trust from counselling.