Dealing with Adult Children During Divorce

A common misconception that adult children of divorce are invariably less affected by their parents’ separation than young children is an oft-cited argument. Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear parting couples intuit that young adults will suffer less in their adjustment than they would have as children. However, with the number of over-50s or “Silver Splitters” choosing to end their marriages reaching a 40-year high, what is becoming more and more apparent is that a divorce’s affect on adult children is frequently underestimated.

There is clear-cut advice for dealing with young children during a divorce. On the other hand however, when the “child” is an adult, these rules often go out of the window. Adult children are frequently just as reluctant to get involved in the divorce between their parents as young children are. Too often, though, their divorcing parents reach out to them and sometimes pull them without any choice into the fray. If divorce occurs when your children are older, there are many ways to avoid this and to create and maintain positive and healthy relationships. Here are four key tips:

Be patient

In the wake of their parents’ divorce, many adult children are forced to see their childhood home be sold and disappear at the same time that they are going through intense changes in their own lives. Some adult children may have had no idea that there were issues between their parents and, like their parents, adult children need time to adjust and move on. While you should acknowledge their pain and even perhaps their disappointment, you shouldn’t try and fix it. Your adult children do not need to understand everything all at once, just be there for them when they have had enough time for their own reflection.

Be careful when sharing information
Even though they may be adults, remember that your children are just that: your children. It may be acceptable to share some information with them, but other information they will not want or need to hear. You are entitled to your own privacy during divorce and children don’t need to know every detail of your marital problems just because they are ‘grown up’. Be mindful of boundaries when speaking to your adult children about the circumstances surrounding your divorce.

Don’t speak badly about your children’s other parent
As angry or upset as you may be at your spouse, it is unfair to pull your adult children into arguments that may sabotage or even critically wound their relationship with their other parent. Even if they are grown up, it is still their mum or dad that you are talking about. Your children’s choices are their own, but do not try to make up their minds for them. Think about if you would share the same information if they were younger.

Don’t lean only on your children for support
It is not uncommon for people going through divorce to instinctively turn to their adult children for both emotional support and advice on what to do next. Although your children know you well and will most likely want what is the best for you, it is important to not only just rely on them, but also to seek objective and informed advice. Your adult children will not know everything about the circumstances of your separation, nor should they. Moreover, they are trying to cope with your divorce themselves. Continue to play your role as their parent while reassuring them that you do respect their opinions and are always open to conversation should they wish to discuss your divorce.