How to Parent Your Adult Children When You’re Divorcing

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Gray divorces are on the rise, as our life expectancies keep extending. Among adults aged 50 and up, the divorce rate has doubled since the 1990s, according to a Pew Research Center report.

What’s interesting, though, is that this later-in-life divorce’s effect on adult children is largely undocumented—and perhaps not very publicly addressed, according to Susan L. Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University. (Her study “The Gray Divorce Revolution” corroborated Pew’s research that the divorce rate among Baby Boomers has indeed doubled.)

Forty-three-year-old Krista Mischo found herself in that situation when her parents divorced after 45 years of marriage—and the divorce support group she attended really focused on adults going through their own divorces. Other groups focused on helping minor children through their parents’ divorces. That’s why she started her own group and blog, Time for Serenity, to help adults cope as their parents were splitting up. If you’re divorcing and you share adult children with your ex, here are seven things to keep in mind to help your kids manage your uncoupling.

1. Urge everyone to get counseling. During a divorce, individual and family counseling can help everyone in your nuclear family manage their feelings. Often, an adult child of divorcing parents gets lost in the shuffle, especially if they’re partnered up and have a family of their own—yet it can be just as unsettling for them to deal with your split. In addition, younger adult children of divorcing parents may end up dealing with some commitment issues because they’re afraid to repeat their parents’ perceived mistakes.

2. Acknowledge your kids’ feelings. Even though your kids aren’t in diapers or in braces, they still may experience similar feelings about your divorce. They may blame themselves for it. They’re feeling the loss of their family of origin—in a way, your divorce rewrites their family history. If you sell the family home, that may also stir up feelings of grief and loss. Plan to spend some time listening to how this situation affects your kids.

3. Keep your kids out of the middle of your split. If you’re divorcing and have a 10 year old, you’re probably much more likely (though not always) to keep details of your split private. Divorcing 101 spells out that splitting parents need to present a unified, positive co-parenting front that doesn’t involve children in their conflicts – or put them in a position to take sides. When your child is an adult, it’s much easier to talk about Dad’s or Mom’s perceived wrongdoings; that’s still a heavy burden to place on a son or daughter who doesn’t necessarily want to know all your dirty laundry or have to take sides.

4. Keep your kids out of your dating (and sex) life. Now, that doesn’t mean not telling your adult children that you’ve started dating again or that you’ve met someone new that you’re spending some time with. It does mean that your son or daughter shouldn’t become your dating coach. For advice on navigating the dating world after divorce, talk to friends who’ve gone through it or your therapist.

5. Keep your kids in the loop. Yes, we just advised you to keep some details of your split and post-split dating adventures closer to the vest, but you should regularly stay in touch with your adult children. Ask what’s going on in their lives, and open up a dialogue about how they’re feeling about your split. Plus, share what’s going on in your life outside the divorce bubble.

6. Plan for the holidays. Yes, the winter holiday season has just passed, but it always makes sense to consider what the holidays will look like with your split. If your kids are married or in committed relationships, they likely are already visiting multiple homes for holidays throughout the year. Now, they’ll have more. Talk frankly with them about how to make the holidays as easy and enjoyable as possible for everyone, without added pressure.

7. Get your finances in order. When you’re over 50, it’s even more important to ensure that you and your ex are financially secure, so it doesn’t put more pressure on your adult children to step in. While you might be tempted to only focus on your financial status post-divorce, you owe it to your kids to handle your finances responsibly. If you haven’t already, consult a financial adviser to develop the most secure plan for you. Use these seven tips to help your adult children move through your divorce—and your family will come out even stronger on the other side of your split.

If you need help with a family law matter, our attorneys at Smedley Law Group can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.

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