The Traumatic Impact of Divorce on Adult Children
Young children are full of wonder and awe and a lot of energy! They are also full of innocence, which is why it’s important that adults protect them from dangerous situations and unnecessary heartaches.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to divorce. Children of parents who decide to divorce can feel like their entire world has been turned upside down.
But how does divorce affect older children? When the children in question are adults themselves, it’s assumed they’ll be unaffected by the news; that somehow because they flew out of the nest and no longer live under the same roof as their parents, they won’t feel their world has been turned upside down.
In the past, the effects of divorce on adult children were not discussed much, but that is now changing. 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.
The Effects on Older Children
While adults may be “older” in years, when it comes to child-parent dynamics, most of us never really grow up. We still need our moms and dads for support and we still need our moms and dads to love each other. What happens when that love goes away, or changes significantly?
We call everything we once believed into question.
The strength of our parents’ marriage is 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? Our we destined to fail at it as well? Is splitting up somehow in our DNA?
For those adult children whose parents waited until they were grown before divorcing, they may now feel guilty that their parents were miserable for so many years on their behalf. Carrying this guilt around, whether justified or not, can feel overwhelming.
It is assumed that our parents will grow old together and take care of each other during their golden years. Once they split, then what happens? Who takes care of them? In many cases, that falls to, you guessed it, the adult children.
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.
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.
The best thing you can do at a time like this is to speak with someone who can help you sort out your feelings. A family therapist can help you alleviate any guilt and angst you may feel and understand that history doesn’t have to repeat itself. You have the power to make different choices in your own life and relationships.
If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help you cope during this confusing and overwhelming time.