The rate of divorce among the 50+ population has increased dramatically over the last 25 years. While much has been written about the financial impact on the divorcing spouses, how it may affect their adult children has been given less consideration. As adults residing on their own, children should not be exposed to daily fighting and it should not change where or how they live. They should also be better equipped to deal with the emotional and psychological impact. However, this isn’t always true and there are very real issues that arise.
- Grief. If parents are divorcing after a long marriage, children will feel the loss of that relationship. They were used to seeing their parents together and now parents will be living separate lives that may be very different from the one they had together. There may also be a desire to blame one or both parents for the breakup.
- Conflicts. Not only may the spouses be battling each other, but children may take sides or feel like they should pick one side. Sometimes parents will look to their children for emotional support and share too much information about the marriage. It can be hard to remain neutral especially when one or more parents tries to involve their children or grandchildren. Other times the adult children can make matters worse by encouraging a parent to fight for more money particularly if there was some wrongdoing by the other parent such as infidelity.
- Concern. It’s natural to be worried about how parents will adjust to the divorce or manage on their own. Depending on the circumstances, they may have good reason to be concerned such as where the parent is very emotional, has health problems or may have trouble supporting himself/herself. Parents may ask children for financial or emotional help and children need to deal with their own limitations in giving assistance.
- Family gatherings. When parents divorce, it can mean having separate and/or stressful holidays and celebrations. It may affect the frequency and duration of visits. Adult children have their own lives and now may have to make time for each parent, which may be difficult. Children may also feel that if they don’t equally balance contacts with each parent then they will upset someone.
- Remarriage/dating. It can be difficult psychologically to see a parent become involved with someone else. When money is an issue, it raises additional concerns. Children may fear the new person is taking financial advantage of their parent or they may lose their inheritance.
Both parents and adult children should turn to therapists to deal with many of these issues. In addition, parents should consider a divorce process that is not adversarial, such as collaborative divorce so they can come to an amicable resolution that will lessen the negative feelings that make divorce worse on everyone. In addition, if there are family disputes, a mediator can help the parties to address some of those concerns.
If you have questions about collaborative divorce, contact me for a consultation.