Statistics currently show a rise in divorce for the over-50s, which means that many children of newly divorced couples are likely to be adults themselves.
So what impact might divorce have on these adult children?
Adult children of divorcing parents often feel very involved. This is because, unlike with young children, parents may not feel the need to protect and shield their adult children from the dispute. They are likely to believe their grown-up children will be able to cope with the divorce.
However, adult children can still feel the loss of the family unit deeply. They may have believed that divorce was not something they would have ever had to contemplate within their family.
Adult children can be angry or upset at the parent seeking the divorce. They may feel emotionally – or practically − responsible for the parent who did not want the marriage to end. In some cases, one parent may have been reliant on the other, and the children may worry that it will now be up to them to fulfil this role.
The adult child may also feel abandoned by parents who are moving on with their new lives and new commitments. If they have children of their own and live busy lives, they might feel anxious that there will be even more juggling to be able to visit their own parents separately, putting additional strain on their own family. Events such as weddings or christenings could raise issues, and may mean having to factor in step families, which they will not have previously envisaged.
How can you help?
Even if your children are adults, don’t involve them in too much depth. You might feel the need to talk to your adult children about the arrangements, particularly with regard to how their other parent has behaved and the finances − but remember that children, even adult children will not want to hear negative comments about the other parent. They are of course, part of both of you.
If your children think that a financial settlement is unfair, they may feel that they have to take sides, or be responsible for one parent. In the long run, adult children are unlikely to thank you for sharing this information with them. Being too open may potentially damage your own relationship with them. Adult children have their own lives to lead and may have a family of their own. Burdening them with your anxieties will only cause them to worry which will impact upon their own family.
If you are struggling to deal with the separation, seek professional counselling from someone who is independent and trained to assist you.
In the event of separation, no matter how old your children are, the best that you and your spouse (or partner) can do for them as parents is to refrain from burdening them with involvement in any emotional aspect. It is important to remember that you are their parents, regardless of age.