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How divorce can affect adult children

Minor children are not the only children who can feel confused, lost or caught in the middle when their parents divorce. Adult children, too, can feel quite an effect.

In fact, with divorce rates increasing among the 50-and-older set, it is likely more adult children than before are feeling the sting of their parents' divorce. Of course, as with children of any age, there are actions parents can take to minimize the divorce's influence.

Feeling caught in the middle

Even if a divorce is amicable, adult children may still feel somewhat caught in the middle. For example, John's newly divorced parents may have separate holiday plans. Perhaps his mother is staying in town and cooking a great meal, while his father is asking relatives to join him at a cabin three hours outside of town.

John now has to make a choice he never had to before: Spend the holiday with Mom or Dad? Even if both parents are completely understanding of the situation, it is natural for John to feel reluctant about hurting his parents. And there will be many more occasions for difficult choices that risk hurt feelings.

Being depended upon

Ideally, divorcing and divorced parents would have their own networks for emotional support. In reality, children, younger and older, are frequently called upon to act as an outlet for all manner of feelings. Being more like a parent's "friend" than like a child can prove uneasy and make children feel stuck in the middle. No one wants to hear one parent complain constantly about having to pay spousal support, for instance, or that the other parent's payments are always late.

Questioning their history

Adult children may also question many aspects of their history and of their memories. Were their parents going through the motions? That last Thanksgiving they had together as a married couple and that seemed wonderful--it could not really have been all that great, could it?

Parents can help in some situations by giving their children as neutral and as fair an assessment as possible about the divorce. For example, saying that, "We had become more like friends, but we're so proud of the many memories we created together" can provide some closure.

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