The Needs of Adult Children of Divorced Parents Are Overlooked
It has been interesting over the years to hear adult children talk about their parents’ divorce and what they most remember about it. Divorce leaves memories for all – some good, many unpleasant, and a few traumatic. Here is what I learned.
When adult children of divorced parents reflect on their parents’ divorce and remember feeling loved and secure with both parents, they marvel and respect the strength their parents exhibited during that time. Those parents kept their children out of the parental disputes. The adult children say they seldom heard their parents argue. They remember spending major holidays and special events with both parents. As adults, these children of divorced parents respect their parents for not dragging them into the adult divorce battles and expecting the children to take sides.
There are other stories: parents who continue to hang onto their anger and pain, dragging their adult children into their divorce and expecting them to take sides. When these adult children tell their stories, their memories are filed with sadness and pain. They tell me they never want to do that to their children.
Adult children of divorced parents can continue to be negatively impacted by the vestiges of their parents’ divorce. Be aware of this, get a grip and do not do this to your adult children.
- Adult children do not need to hear all the juicy details about what went on between their parents that led to the divorce. Parents know they should not discuss behind the scenes stories with their minor children. Somehow, they seem to think it is okay to discuss those personal details with adult children. It is not. The personal details of what went on between their parents is also hurtful to adult children. The stories serve little purpose except to try to show or convince the adult child that the other parent was a terrible person – or to justify the divorce.
- Do not make your adult children take sides. The divorce was yours. Let them lead their own lives and find their own path to happiness and security. Do not weigh them down with worries about your life.
- Be sensitive to the fact that your adult children may feel guilt over your divorce. Do your adult children think you were forced to marry or stay married because of them? Do they think they owe you something financially? Emotionally? They may need positive feedback and reassurance from you.
- You now have or will have grandchildren. Your anger or vindictiveness toward the other grandparent, whether direct or indirect, will be sensed by the grandchildren. Not only may the grandchildren be too young to understand the tension, more importantly, they should not be subjected to it. They are innocent and your divorce should not be a negative in their lives.
- Your divorce has an impact on siblings and the extended family. Take care not to make everyone uncomfortable at family events where you and your former spouse are both present.
- Your adult children now have a spouse and their own family they need to focus on. Do not expect them to be there to make you feel secure and happy. That is not fair to your adult child, their spouse, or the grandchildren.
Remember: your divorce has an impact on your adult children and their own memories of their childhood and homelife. They will need to grieve and process the changes in the family structure and dynamics, even though they are adults and have their own lives. Do not get caught up in your own emotions and grief and drag them into it. When you are down, seek support somewhere other than relying on your adult children. Within the family structure, you are still their parent. Act like the adult.
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