Young children are full of wonder and awe and a lot of energy! And they are often innocent which is why it’s important that adults protect them from dangerous situations and unnecessary heartaches.
That isn’t easy when it comes to divorce. Children of parents who decide to divorce can feel like their entire world has been turned upside down. We all pretty much acknowledge that but we often ignore that divorce also affects older children.
Often we assume, or want to believe, that when the children are adults themselves they’ll be unaffected. That simply isn’t true because even as adults we carry fantasies about our families and our parents’ marriage.
In the past, the effects of divorce on adult children were not discussed much, but that is now changing, perhaps in part because divorce among older people is more common. Susan L. Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, conducted a study that revealed the divorce rate among people 50 and older has doubled over the past 20 years.
We Like Our Fantasies
While adults may be “older” in years, when it comes to child-parent dynamics, many of us don’t really grow up. We still need our moms and dads for support and we still want our moms and dads to love each other. What happens when that love goes away, or changes significantly?
Sometimes that change makes us call a lot we once believed into question. That’s not necessarily bad. It can help us look at relationships with more depth. The strength of our parents’ marriage may have been a big factor in shaping our young lives and minds. If their relationship wasn’t as strong as we thought it was, what does that mean about relationships in general? What else about our childhood that we thought was true is not true?
And what does this mean about our own marriage and relationships? Are we destined to fail at it as well?
Some adult children may feel guilty thinking their parents were miserable. Others may feel angry that their fantasized families weren’t real. Or they may blame one parent who decided to leave.
Often adults just took it for granted that their parents would grow old together and take care of each other during their golden years. Once they split, then what happens? Who takes care of them?
And what about the grandchildren? Not only do adult kids have to deal with their own grief and sadness, they also must help their children come to terms with the fact grandma and grandpa are divorcing.
Yet despite the difficulties, this like any family change can spur growth with each person in the family.
Honestly Explore Changes
If you’re an adult whose parents have split or are currently in the process of getting divorced and you’re having a hard time coping, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Age has nothing to do with feeling sad or lost, disappointed, or angry.
The best thing you can do at a time like this is to allow yourself to be as honest as possible. Even if you are angry, try not to blame because that seldom helps anyone. But it may help to speak with someone to help sort out your feelings, and realign your relationships. Your family has changed and you will also. Sorting out the changes for you can help give you the power to make different choices in your own life and relationships.
If you would like to explore how you have been affected by changes in your parents relationship, and chart the best course for yourself, please don’t hesitate to contact me.