You may not know it, but people over the age of fifty are getting divorced in the United States at a pace not before seen in our nation's history. As a result, the adult children of those folks getting divorced in their retirement years have to learn methods to cope with their parents getting divorced. In yesterday's blog post, we discussed some of the unique issues that adult children are going through in a situation where their parents are divorcing.
We concluded that blog post with tips that you as a parent who has recently gone through a so-called "Grey divorce" could implement in your life to help ease your and your child's transition after the divorce has concluded. It is not as simple as you may think to be a child whose parents divorce later in life. While you have an advantage in that your child is older, that does not mean that they are not hurting emotionally. It also does not mean that you and your ex-spouse will have an easier time navigating the "dance" that divorced families have to maneuver in the post-divorce years.
Let's begin today's blog post by continuing to discuss some advice and tips that I believe can be helpful for you and your family during this difficult time.
Remember that your child (and you) have a support system in the form of family.
Most of you reading this blog have cousins, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc., who are more than willing and able to assist your child will recovering from the effects of divorce.
Help your child be comfortable with the fact that while you and your ex-spouse are no longer married, you understand that your primary obligation to your child is to continue to act as a parent. The same can be said of your ex-spouse. It may seem trivial to do with an adult child, but they may feel just as lost as a younger child of divorce at this time. Reaffirming the strength of your relationship with your child can be incredibly helpful.
Along with this, help your child be aware that your extended family is here to assist. Of course, if you can talk to these folks and "lay the groundwork" for discussing with your child, this can go a long way as well. If your child knows that they have family out there that is willing to listen, then this can help your child and you.
Legitimize your child's feelings regarding your family.
When I first started considering this topic, I didn't think it had enough merit to write a blog post about it. Now that we are nearing the halfway point in blog number two, I think it is safe to say that I changed my mind on the subject.
Do not think that just because your child's age now starts with a "2", "3," or even "4" that their emotions and feelings on the subject of their parents getting a divorce have been muted to extinguished altogether. So much of our concept of ourselves and our place in society hinges on our upbringing, of which our parents and our family represent a considerable part of that. A divorce can strip your child of their emotional bearings even into adulthood.
Respect your child and how they feel, and do not attempt to minimize or cancel out those feelings. For example, if your child is heartbroken at the news of your divorce, there is nothing wrong with this. I have seen many adult children who are very close with both of their parents because emotional at the prospect of their parents divorcing.
On the other hand, if your child is seemingly not emotional or having trouble with your divorce, this is also a legitimate feeling. Some children do not take the news of their parents divorcing as hard as other children and, as a result, do not need to talk through the issues or receive the support that other children may. This, too, is okay. Your child may need time to contemplate all the issues and will need your support later. Or your child may not need any emotional support at all. The range of feelings runs just as diverse as the children we all have helped create. All their feelings are legitimate.
Do you have a problem with intimacy and relationships?
If your child comes to you with their feelings about your divorce and you are absolutely made uncomfortable by this and wholly avoid conversations like this, you may have intimacy issues. Perhaps you had a clue about this in prior years, but your divorce has caused you to meet this problem head-on. What can you do?
I would recommend that you seek professional counseling or therapy after your divorce. Do not lean on your child in this area. They are not the right ear to bend in this area. Overall, it is very healthy to talk through your feelings, but it is not advisable to do so with your child.
Your child can evolve in their thoughts on your divorce- allow them to do so
May adult children coping with divorce feel heartbroken and even devasted by their parent's divorce. Part of this centers around their insecurities regarding the subject and what it means to your family moving forward—another part of that feeling centers around the sadness that your child feels regarding your happiness. Your child may be upset that you and your ex-spouse were involved in an unhappy relationship for years.
What will Christmas look like now? Thanksgiving? Their children play sports and do extracurricular activities that you and your ex-spouse previously attended together. Will these activities now be awkward as a result? While these concerns may seem trivial to you, they certainly are not to your child. Remember- their approach to post-divorce life will be different from yours.
Overall, your child will evolve in their feelings towards your divorce at varying rates of speed. As your child adjusts to your new family life, they will probably become more comfortable with the idea of having divorced parents. You can assist them by legitimizing their feelings and giving them time to allow that evolution to occur. It will not be easy to see your child grieve, but in the long run, you can trust that your patience will pay dividends for you and your family.
Allow your divorce to act as a teaching tool for your child.
If your adult child is not yet married, then the lesson of your divorce can act as a means to teach your child what to look for in a relationship and life partner. It may be hard for you to think of your marriage as a teaching tool, but your life has always been a lesson to use to teach your child how to succeed. We make mistakes in our lives and go through difficult things. Divorce is just one of those difficulties.
Show your child that they can bounce back from hard times and that you can maintain your sense of self and dignity even when it may seem impossible to do so. If you are honest with your child while maintaining appropriate boundaries, your child will not only appreciate you for it but can implement those lessons in their own lives as they grow older.
Interested in learning more about Grey Divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you are in a situation that you believe needs legal intervention, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our licensed family law offers can meet with you to answer questions six days a week.
Not only that, but our consultations are free of charge. We will do our best to address your issues, problem-solve with you and provide you with information about how our office is equipped to serve you and your family during these difficult times.