Are you a Parent of an Adult Child of Divorce?

You might think that since your children are older, your divorce won’t affect them as much, but divorce has an impact on all children- no matter their age. Adult children face unique challenges when their parent’s divorce, as they watch the life they knew for decades change before their eyes. Their maturity and deeper understanding of relationships can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to how they cope with their parent’s divorce.

It doesn’t hurt any less.

A divorce is a painful experience for all involved, regardless of age. Many couples choose to stay together until their children reach adulthood in hopes that it won’t cause as much turmoil for them, but it still can- just in different ways. Divorce is a loss, and it’s something that even your adult children will grieve. They may better understand your reasoning behind wanting a divorce, but they will still hurt both for you and for themselves.

It may bring up doubts about their own relationships.

It’s normal for children of divorce to have some uncertainty when it comes to commitment and trust in relationships. This may be even more true if you divorce when your children are older. Watching their parent’s marriage- which they thought was rock solid- come to an end can bring up questions about their own ability to have a long-term relationship. You can help your children through these doubts by reassuring them that each relationship is unique and that what happened to you does not have to happen to them.

It can change the dynamic of the parent-child relationship.

Studies have shown that gray divorce has a tendency to drive a bit of a wedge between fathers and their children. Historically, mothers are the ones that hold the family together through gatherings and frequent contact, even after their adult children grow up and move out on their own. Fathers who divorce when their children are older may have to make an extra effort to stay involved in their lives. While it may be a challenge at first, it presents new ways for fathers to connect with their adult children, and may even create some fun family traditions in the process.

It may make adult children feel like they are stuck in the middle.

When your children are older, you might feel like you can be more open with them about things like your post-divorce dating life and your opinion on your ex. Despite their age, adult children still need to be protected from the conflict between their parents. Just because they’re old enough to hear every little detail doesn’t mean they want to. You are still their parents, and they should never feel forced to choose sides.

They still need you to co-parent.

While you no longer have to worry about shared parenting schedules or child support, you will likely still need to communicate with your ex on occasion. Holidays, birthday parties, weddings, graduations, grandchildren’s sporting events- if you and your ex are both involved in your adult children’s lives, there will inevitably be times when you will see each other. Co-parenting may look different, but you are still parents, and your children still need both of you. The best thing you can do for your adult children is to be gracious and respectful in your communication with your ex.

No matter when it happens, divorce is hard. There is an adjustment period for all involved, and children- yes, even adult children- need their parent’s support during that time. Just as you want your children to be happy, they want the same for you. With plenty of love and support, you’ll all get there.

More Split.fyi Resources:

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Essential Resources

If you’re facing legal/custody battles, a mental health crisis, an urgent medical issue, serious emotional problems, including suicidal thoughts, please seek help from the appropriate professionals near you.

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Crisis line: 1-800-356-5395
Crisis text line: Text “help” to 741741
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

Split.fyi Resources
Split.fyi Marital Life Inventory
Divorce Lifecycle Document
Divorce Process Overview

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