When parents struggle with marriage, they worry about their children. Splitting up could cause emotional damage to the children, so parents may vow to stick together until the children are grown. But does waiting until the children are over the age of 18 really make the divorce process easier?
Adult children of divorce are saying no. People in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond who have seen their parents divorce still struggle to cope with the changes in their lives. There is nothing that magically makes divorce easier when a minor turns into an adult.
People may assume that adult kids are better able to handle their parents’ divorce than young kids. However, experts say that a divorce after a long-term marriage can be challenging for adult children, no matter their age.
Why is this? Children often see their parents’ marriage as a security blanket. Once the parents divorce, it changes the family dynamic. Adult children often question their childhood. They feel insecure, with no place to really call home. So, when parents decide to call it quits, it may be surprising. It can be a shocking revelation for all involved.
Mistakes Parents Make
Adult children often struggle to cope with their parents’ divorce because they get caught in the middle. One parent may depend on them to provide them with emotional support. This can make the child feel uncomfortable, since it may make it seem as though they are choosing one parent over the other. This can, of course, lead to conflict.
Parents should not use their children as an emotional crutch during a divorce, regardless of their age. Children do not need all the details on how the marriage came to an end nor do they need to know how difficult the other parent is during the divorce.
Parents should also avoid telling the children that they have stayed in the marriage “for the sake of you children.” This can make a child feel guilty. A divorce is a decision that the parents need to make and they should not be involving the child. Children should not be made to feel responsible for their parent’s lives. As adults, parents can choose to make whatever decisions they want regarding their marriages. Do not do anything for a child’s sake. Sometimes it’s better to just divorce when the children are younger rather than wait and drag it out.
How parents decide to behave during their divorce could impact how their children may view their own relationships. Therefore, parents need to be mindful of how they treat each other and what they tell their children. Behavior is important; try to aim for an amicable divorce, if possible.
How You Can Help Your Parents
So your parents are divorcing. It can be hard to know what to do now. The situation can be challenging to navigate. Here are some ways in which you can help:
- Ask your parents what specific help they need (physical, emotional, etc.).
- Offer to run errands, such as grocery shopping.
- Provide help around the house.
- Help them find the right professional support, such as a lawyer, mediator, or financial professional.
- Check in with them regularly and make sure they are handling their affairs.
- Arrange to spend time with them doing everyday activities so you can distract them from the divorce.
How to Cope
The good news is that there are proven ways for adult children of divorce to cope:
- Set boundaries. Clearly communicate boundaries to your parents. Ask them not to involve you in their disputes. Set limits as to how much information you want to hear. Do not take on too much responsibility for looking after either parent.
- Stay neutral. Do not pick sides or become embroiled in your parents’ issues. Stay neutral and avoid taking sides. Keep in mind that your relationship with your parents may change. As an adult, you can decide what relationship to have with them.
- Get support. You are going through a challenging time in your life and do not have the support of your parents. Seek help from a close friend or family member. Consider joining a support group or seeking out a therapist.
- Take care of yourself. Dealing with your parents’ divorce can be stressful. Make time for activities you enjoy. Practice self-care through exercise or therapy.
Thinking About the Future
A divorce splits up a family. You will need to be prepared to navigate some challenges in the future. This may include holidays and special events. Do your parents have a strained relationship with each other? If so, how will you handle it? There is no right or wrong way to deal with this. It is your decision.
Overall, take things step by step. Things may well settle down between your parents as time moves on. You may get to spend time with them together.
If you have your own children, they should also not miss out on maintaining their relationship with each of their grandparents. Try to facilitate this, if possible.
Seek Legal Help
The divorce of one’s parents can affect a child of any age – even an adult in their 20s, 30s, or older. A divorce can be shocking no matter how old a child is when it happens.
Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you deal with this frustrating time. We have the knowledge and compassion to make things easier. Fill out the online form or call (954) 346-6464 to schedule a consultation with our office.