The Dos and Don'ts of Divorce with Adult Children

"Grey divorce" or divorce after age 50 is on the rise. People are growing a part as they age and deciding to enjoy the rest of their lives separately rather than suffering through as a couple. Due to this increase of divorce at later stages of life, more and more people have adult children when they get divorced. It can be difficult to know how to approach the situation; they are fully grown adults but still your children and have only known the two of you as a couple. Here we have outlined the dos and don'ts of getting divorced when your children are adults.

Do give them time to grieve and process the information

Since your children are now full grown adults who understand the intricacies of relationships you may expect them to act with maturity and understanding about your decision. No matter their age though, they are still your children. They have built their ideas of relationships, marriage, and their upbringing based on the two of you being together. No matter how supportive they want to be, this will be difficult for them to take. They may react with anger, sadness,and confusion. Even though you have moved past the hands on parenting of their youth, your divorce will still have an affect your children and they will need time to grieve the loss.  

Don’t expect them to accept it and move on

Understand that as much as this process may be painful for you, your children will still need you to be there for them. They may need to discuss their feelings with you and it is important that they feel you are both still there for them. It is not fair to expect them to just accept it and move on as they will likely be feeling a lot of confusing emotions and won’t know how to move forward right away.

Do remember you are still their parent

Though they may not need you to act as such on a regular basis, you are still their parent. It is important that you keep this in mind and protect them from the harsher parts of divorce. Don’t bad talk your Ex in front of them or gossip about your new love life. They are not your friend they are your child and they still love and care for your Ex. Putting them in that position will further confuse them and may make them resent you in the long run.

Don’t treat them as your confident or therapist

If you need someone to talk to reach out to a friend or get a therapist. Don’t put your child in that position. They do care about you and will want to be there for you, but don’t put all of your problems and emotions onto your child. They will be dealing with their own heartache and don’t need to bear the weight of yours as well. Furthermore make sure that they aren’t put in the middle or forced to act as a mediator between you and your Ex. Your children should not play any role in your divorce other than that of your child. The details should be worked out between you and your spouse and if they cannot be, it should be a professional and not your children that are asked to step in to help.

Do encourage them to continue relationships with all their family members

Your children consider both you and your family, and your Ex and their family, as their own. When you get divorced they may feel that chunks of their life and their family are being lost. Reassure them that this is not true and encourage them to keep their ties with your Ex and all extended family members. Though you may choose to not consider your Ex’s family as your own anymore your children should not feel that they have to make this choice.

Don’t make them take sides or feel guilty for not cutting ties with other family members

After your divorce you may decide to completely cut your Ex and his family out of your life. This is in your right  but it is not reasonable to ask the same of your children. They have  a very different relationship with your Ex and see them in a different light than you do. Even if they are no longer your spouse they are still your child’s parent so it is important that you don’t try to push your feelings onto your children and make them take sides. Trying to make them take sides will likely backfire and end up with your children resenting you for it. Along with that, the family that you married into is the family your children were born into. You should encourage your children to keep the ties they have with their extended family members and not make them feel guilty for continuing relationships with your Ex and their Family.

Do explain to them why this is happening

As adults your children have a better understanding of relationships and may be able to figure out what went wrong in yours and why you are getting a divorce. It is best though that they hear it directly from you, not in a way that belittles or insults your Ex, but they should understand the facts that lead to this decision. You can use this discussion as a teaching moment that reassures them that not all relationships end up this way, and the end of your marriage does not mean that their relationships will follow the same path.

Don’t give them all the nitty gritty details

When talking to your children about your divorce you should only give them the basic necessary facts. In the moment they may want to know everything, but in the long run it is better from them to not have all the details. Be honest and talk to them as an adult but do not forget that they are not your friend they are your child, and what you say about your divorce and your Ex will have a greater affect on them.

Do explain how your future will change

As adults your children will likely worry about your future. They will want to know how your lives will be changing financially, where you will be living, and how your retirement plans will be affected. These are all things that you will sort out throughout the process of your divorce so keep your children informed as your plans unfold.

Don’t expect them to take over the caregiver role

As you age you will likely need someone to look out for you and take care of you. It is important that following your divorce you reassess your plans and include your children in the process or at least inform them of your plans. Do not automatically assume that they will take over the caregiver role as they may not be prepared for this responsibility both financially and emotionally. If you think that you will need help from your children in the future explain this to them. Outline what you hope their role will be and listen to what they have to say about it. You will both be better off if the expectations for the future and clear and everyone has time to prepare.

Do understand that you will still need to co-parent

You may feel that by waiting until your children are grown you do not have to worry about maintaining a relationship with your Ex and having to co-parent. In the traditional sense of co-parenting this is true. You don’t have to worry about a custody arrangement or moving children between homes every other week. You will however, still both be approached for advice, will want to see your children on the holidays, and attend weddings and your grand children’s recitals. These situations will require you both to continue to be parents together and so you will have to maintain civilities with your Ex.

Don’t make it difficult for your children to have you both in the same room

Quite often, people are unable to maintain a civil relationship after their divorce. This makes the lives of their children incredibly difficult. Your children shouldn’t have to worry about inviting the both of you to their wedding or their child’s first birthday party. Divorce can be a very painful experience leaving people with broken hearts and bitter feelings. For your sake and your children’s working through these feelings, whether on your own or with a therapist, is the best thing you can do.

Your divorce will be hard on you and your entire family. Make sure to check in with your children and never loose sight of the fact that though they may be adults you are still their parent.