Gray Divorce: The Impact on Adult Children
Older people often neglect the effect that a difficult decision like a divorce has on their adult children. It is easy to dismiss or minimize the disruption and pain caused by this “gray” divorce, which refers to the hair color that older people often have.
Adult children are treated as if their parents are minor stakeholders in the family’s divorce. They are no longer part of the family they have known all their lives. Yet, there is an implicit expectation that this will not affect them as much as they are grown.
Divorcing later in life
The divorce rate of adults 50 years and older has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Why do more people choose to divorce later in life than ever before? First, people live longer than in previous generations. Their children will leave their home to go to college or pursue other careers. Their lives may be a long one. Even though they may have lived together when their children were young, they can’t imagine living with the same person decades later.
Economics is also a key role. American women are able to work outside the home and not be financially dependent on their spouses. Although women used to be compelled to stay married, they are now able to choose to divorce if the relationship is no more fulfilling.
It is important to consider the impact of gray divorce on adult kids
Many older couples who divorce don’t include their adult children. They are not expected to be affected by their parents’ divorce, despite being adults and in different stages of adulthood. Couples who divorcing with their adult children believe that their children will be able to handle the situation.
Parents often feel so overwhelmed and caught up in their emotions of sadness and anger, fear, anxiety, and confusion during divorce that they cannot manage their own feelings and those of their children. It is easy to relax and believe that their adult children will be fine, and that there is nothing to worry about.
This belief is supported by the legal system. The current court system does not allow for adult children. They are considered uninvolved by the courts. Lawyers inform parents that adult children are not legal concerns. The U.S. family court system is only able to determine the best interests for minor children. Therefore, the implicit message is that adult kids of divorce are irrelevant.
Younger adult children, whether they’re in college or just starting a career, might feel financially dependent on their parents. They might wonder if they will be able continue to help their parents financially. Some college students may fear that they will have no choice but to leave. When they are just starting out in their careers or juggling their work and family life, their older adult children may have to assist one or both of the parents financially. This can lead to financial strain on their marriage and cause them to be less happy. If parents are hostile, managing extended family celebrations (births, graduations or weddings) can become a nightmare.
Assistance for adult children who are going through divorce
Parents can provide support for their adult children through divorce. The first step is to understand that the divorce of their children has an impact on their lives, regardless of how old they are. Next, parents must listen to their adult kids and understand how they feel. Humans heal when they are heard, according to research.
Parents need to be aware that adult children may experience many losses and will likely be grieving them. There are many holiday, graduation and wedding celebrations that can never be repeated as a family. Family rivalries that favor one parent over the other can lead to a breakdown of extended family, friends, community, and family relationships. Adult children could lose some of these relationships. These relationships could also be lost by grandchildren.
Gray divorces can be difficult for your children. You are moving forward to a new beginning. Your adult children are suffering from losses. Do not disparage the parent you are living with and do not use your adult children as your confidant. Your adult children can and should have a different relationship to their parent than you. You shouldn’t force them into choosing one side. Although it might be your marriage, it could also be their other parent.
As an adult, how to deal with parental divorce
Are you having trouble navigating your parent’s divorce as an adult. Although divorce can be difficult or cause separation between parents and children, there are ways to heal. Feelings of grief, anger and worry as well as sadness and worry are all valid.
Research suggests that at least half the adult children (of all ages) feel negative about their parents’ divorce. Yet, they ultimately resolved their differences with their parents.
You can improve your communication skills and boundaries setting skills with your parents, siblings, friends, and the community. You can plan your own holiday traditions, rituals and traditions if that is what you desire. Do not become your parent’s confidant. Instead, encourage your parent’s to talk to a professional (e.g. clergy, counselor, therapist) to help them work through their emotions. Ask a professional who is experienced in dealing with adult children after divorce and how to help them with their dating, re-partnering, or remarrying.
Our new book Home Will Never Again Be the Same Again: A Guide For Adult Children of Gray Divorce might be a good place to start. It is a book that gives voice to adult kids of divorce. It features adult children’s experiences from 18- to 50 years. Each of them is in different stages, including shock, fear, or sudden, drastic change. We wanted this group to be recognized and know that they are not the only ones going through difficult times.