The stigma of divorce is starting to lift. According to the AARP, divorce for people over 50 has nearly double since the 1990's. Retirement and empty nest syndrome are often triggers for relationship tension that results in divorce.
Adult children of divorced parents often take the news harder than one might think. Expecting your adult children to take it in stride is not realistic. Divorce can completely change the relationship dynamics; it challenges children's world views and they might start to question their childhood memories and struggle with guilt. "My parents said they stayed together all those years because of me," is a common refrain. Adult children might view the situation as not just their parents separating, but rather that they are "losing their family."
So how do we navigate the murky waters and preserve the relationship with our adult children?
Try to understand what they are feeling. This can be hard because you are going through a very difficult time yourself -- your divorce. Understanding that this is a trauma for your adult children as well can make it easier to respond in a positive way to them. Your adult children might be angry at you, they might feel depressed or they might even try and fix the relationship for you. No matter how your child responds, do not try to rush them through their grieving process.
Try to respect your adult children's boundaries. An interesting dynamic that happens with parents divorce with adult children is that the parents often heavily depend on the children during the divorce. Parents might forget that the children are grieving too. Your child may want to help but doesn't know how, or can't. Be aware that this might be difficult for them and look for other help if it is presenting a problem for your child.
Do not talk badly about your spouse to your adult child. It may seem like they are an adult and can handle it, but keep in mind that they are not your confidante. Talking badly about your spouse to your child could lead to your child taking sides, or it could hurt their relationship with either parent. They may be mad at you for your comments, or they may side with you and be angry with the other spouse. Either response is not in the best interest of the family. Be sensitive to this.
Reestablish that your love for them has not changed. Show your children with actions that even though you are not married anymore, you still are the same person that you have always been. If you used to be a good listener for them, continue to do so. If you used to go out to coffee, continue that routine.
It can be rough, especially the first year after the divorce. Do not be afraid to seek counseling if you feel that your relationship with your children is severely damaged.
This post originally appeared on RevitalizeCounselingServices.com