By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
We all know divorce is tough on families, especially when children are involved. In most cases, the older the children, the more complex the reaction and more difficult the adaptation.
This includes adult children, as well.
Adult children have a longer history in the former family unit, regardless of how healthy or toxic it has been. Perhaps they remember better times when Mom and Dad interacted with them and each other with more joy and harmony. Even if there were no good times to look back upon, adult and older children were accustomed to the existing family dynamic, knew their place in the structure, and felt a sense of comfort in “what is.”
Resisting change is a natural part of being human. For adult children of divorce that resistance is compounded by a tendency to test boundaries and rock the status quo. Divorce or separation naturally makes all children feel powerless over their circumstances. For adult children who are beyond listening to parental authority, this change can be especially hard to accept.
Adult children are usually more judgmental and opinionated than younger children. Consequently, they are less likely to blame themselves for the divorce (as younger kids frequently do) and more apt to take sides and blame one or both of their parents.
Anger is a common reaction from adult children who are feeling fear or pain as a consequence of their parent’s divorce. If they are not given the opportunity to vent, express their feelings and be heard, this anger often manifests as aggressive conflict or severed communication. In other cases, adults will keep their feelings held in and maintain a very superficial relationship with the targeted parent.
How can parents bridge this communication and credibility gap with their adult children?
Ask questions and listen. “Hear” your adult children, even if you don’t like what they are saying. Remind them that this is your life and not theirs. But acknowledge their feelings and opinions as valid and important to you.
Try not to let separation or divorce give your children the opportunity to divide and conquer within the family unit. Sometimes two or more adult children will see and experience their parents’ divorce differently, causing rifts among siblings. Get the family together to talk. Agree to disagree on issues without being disagreeable – or rejecting other family members.
Adult children are often deeply afraid that their parents’ divorce will be a reflection on their own life. Assure them that they can make their own independent decisions regarding relationships without worrying that they will fail just because your marriage ended in divorce. Also, encourage them to learn from your mistakes.
Don’t be afraid to get the professional help you need in smoothing your relationship with your adult children. Divorce Coaches and Therapists understand these dynamics and can provide tools and strategies for keeping the door to healthy communication open.
Don’t give up if your adult child blames or rejects you for the divorce. Keep being open and embracing around them, reach out to them, remind them that your love for them will never change. Ask for their forgiveness. And always be receptive to talking things out.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the internationally acclaimed guidebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – With Love!
All Rights Reserved Rosalind Sedacca