A relatively recent phenomenon that we have seen occur in the United States is the rise of what is known as “Grey Divorces.” These are divorces between parties nearing retirement age or are at least over the age of fifty. In previous generations, if you were a member of this age group, it was unlikely that you would file for divorce. We don’t have the time or space to get into a sociological discussion on why Grey Divorces didn’t occur as frequently in the past. However, we can safely say that they were uncommon in years past and are increasingly common in today’s world.
Whenever we see a trend in any area of life, there will always be consequences. These can be positive or negative consequences, but since we are talking about a divorce, the majority will be negative from my experience. That’s not to say that divorce can’t protect a person from their spouse’s violent behavior or things of that nature. Still, for the most part, a divorce means that two otherwise decent people are breaking up the familial unit that has bound them together for years. Seeing as how we’re discussing divorces for peopled aged 50-plus, it is probable that yours is a marriage that lasted for 20-plus years until the time you or your spouse filed for divorce from the other.
While much ink has been spilled on the subject of helping children cope with their parent’s divorce, the majority of these center around younger children dealing with the effects of divorce, on the other hand, very little has been written about how a person who has gone through a Grey divorce can help their children handle the effects of divorce. The same difficulties that affect younger children- mixed loyalties foremost among them- affect older children and adults just as profoundly.
The fact is that your children will experience their problems associated with establishing boundaries and figuring out how to be loyal to both you and your ex-spouse after divorce. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will detail some information on this subject to provide some much-needed advice to families like yours. Depending on your and your ex-spouse’s mindset and personalities, this advice may be sorely needed even if your children are adults with families of their own.
Sticky and tricky situations for the adult children of divorced parents
Younger children rely upon their parents for the essentials in life like food, shelter, clothing, and emotional support. Without these things, a child’s developmental growth can be severely stunted. The essential that I believe is most likely underappreciated is the emotional support aspect that parents provide to their children. I bet we have all known an adult who we’ve thought maybe wasn’t hugged enough as a youngster.
As a parent, once your child has reached adulthood, your legal responsibility to support them goes away, but you still have a self-imposed obligation to support your child in numerous ways. I can tell you that my mom still worries about and asks me about similar subjects in many regards nowadays even though I have children of my own. You don’t stop being a parent just because your child is grown.
Another tricky part of being the child of a set of divorced parents is that your children are now more likely to become aware of the specific issues that forced the divorce. Had you divorced while your children were minors, a judge would have ordered you and your spouse not to speak to your children about the divorce. A divorce involving two persons with adult children carries no such injunction against speaking freely about the divorce. Suppose you are the type of person who shares information about dating, sex, relationships in general, and divorce with your child. In that case, you are putting them in a difficult-to-navigate situation.
With all of this said, I hope you can see that while an adult child may have some advantages compared to their younger counterparts as far as dealing with the aftermath of parents going through a divorce, there are still challenges that need to be taken seriously.
The remainder of today’s blog will highlight some tips on the subject of helping your adult child cope with your Grey divorce.
Please do not put your child in a position where they must mediate other disputes.
Whether your divorce has been finalized or is ongoing, you should not expect your child to be able to play mediator for you and your ex-spouse. It is normal to want to lean on your child during this time but remember that their loyalties are not to either you or your ex-spouse. Allow your child to deal with your divorce in their way. Speak to them honestly but do not ask them to pick a side or settle a dispute. Just because your children know you and your ex-spouse doesn’t mean they are an appropriate person to come to with relationship/divorce issues.
Allow your child to speak their truth to you.
If your child wants to come to you with their thoughts and feelings on your divorce, you should let them- to a point. As a parent, you know the boundaries you have set with your child, and it is unlikely that your child will come to you to discuss your divorce unless they are already comfortable with you. So, in a way, if your child even brings up this subject, it’s likely that you’ve done a great job of parenting because your child wants to talk to you about an important issue like this.
However, there is a fine line between allowing your child to speak their truth to you (which will likely not be that pleasant to hear) and allowing your child to cross a line and criticize you or your ex-spouse to an intolerable degree. Treat this situation like you would on any other topic with any other person. Your child is entitled to feel the way they do, regardless of how it makes you feel. However, your child is not entitled to make you feel worse than you already do on a particular subject. Listen patiently but do not allow your child to cross a line with you. Speaking of crossing lines…
Boundaries need to be created that are healthy for you and your child.
Following up with what we were discussing, your child needs to understand that even though the topics that are a part of your divorce may seem like topics that they are free to comment on with zero discretion, that cannot be the case. If you want to have a healthy relationship with your child, you need to help your child realize that while you can discuss some things related to the divorce, other issues are sensitive, and at the end of the day, your child is your child, and you are their parent. If your child is upset and inappropriate, tell them as much in a respectful manner.
On the other hand, you cannot expect your child to hold back their opinions if you tell your child every minute detail about your divorce. There is some information about your marital relationship your child doesn’t need to know and honestly does not want to know. Be careful about what you share. Be willing to discuss your life and the feelings associated with divorce but draw a line between name-calling, sensitive details on your sex life, and other aspects of divorce that can be inappropriate and uncomfortable to discuss.
More on Grey divorce in tomorrow’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
We still have more information and advice to share with you all about Grey divorces. Please come back tomorrow as we expand upon this topic.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about family law in Texas, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with a licensed family law attorney. These consultations occur six days a week and can go a long way towards answering tricky questions and generally putting you at ease before engaging in a family law case.