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Why parental divorce can have a significant emotional impact on adult children

| May 18, 2021 | Divorce

If you’re among the increasing number of people over 50 who divorce after their children are grown and have started their own lives, you may not be worried about how the divorce will affect them. Many divorcing spouses are so consumed with their own emotions and the logistics of the break-up that they don’t stop to think about how their kids are dealing with the situation.

However, many adult children of divorce say that the news was a shock to their systems – and their entire perception of who they and their family were. One of two marriage and family therapists (LMFT) who wrote a book on the subject said “they view it as a disintegration of their family’s history.”

What kinds of things affect adult children’s reactions to parental divorce?

How the divorce affects adult children’s relationships with their parents individually and together can depend on the reason for the divorce. If one parent was unfaithful, they’re an easy person to blame. However, it can depend on what they’ve experienced in their own marriages and, as one LMFT notes, “the emotional maturity of the adult child.”

It’s helpful when both parents follow the same guidelines recommended for divorcing parents of younger kids. If they were still children, you would know you shouldn’t ask them to take sides or disparage their other parent in front of them. You wouldn’t share details about the marriage or divorce that they didn’t need to know. The same is true no matter how old your kids are.

Why can the different types of divorce be important?

One LMFT points out that the divorce process people choose can have a big effect on how much it tears apart the family. A mediated or collaborative divorce where parents aren’t battling over property and spousal support in court can help keep things amicable. Even a divorce where a couple can work out their agreements with their attorneys’ help rather than taking matters before a judge to decide can help preserve some family unity. 

Remember that you still have years of family gatherings, marriages, new grandchildren and other milestones big and small ahead of you. Those will all be a lot easier to handle if you get off to the right start as you end your marriage.

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