When parents decide to divorce, they generally think of how their decision will affect their children. Parents of older children often mistakenly assume that older children are beyond the point of needing the standard parental figures in their life and treat them more as confidantes rather than children. Parents should understand that a divorce can negatively impact a couple’s children in many significant ways, regardless of age.
Parents of young children may be surprised to see how well their younger children handle a separation or divorce, whereas the parents of a child in his or her 30s may be surprised to find him or her devastated over the news of the divorce. Ultimately, these situations affect adults differently, and parents should be as sympathetic as possible to how their decision to divorce affects their grown children.
Divorce Disrupts Family Balance
If you are the parent of an adult child, you likely have some kind of routine for spending time together as a family. Some families have weekly family meals or get together once a month for special gatherings. Some may only spend time together during the holidays. No matter what type of schedule your family has for spending time with each other, divorce will ultimately disrupt this balance. If one spouse leaves the family home, it may not feel the same to the children during holidays and special occasions. Additionally, any lingering resentments between the divorced spouses may boil over into other areas of the family.
Divorce Can Shake Your Child’s Faith in His or Her Own Relationships
Most children base their concepts of healthy relationships around what they observe from their parents. If a child grew up thinking his or her parents were a happy couple only to learn they plan on divorcing, this can shatter many of the preconceptions he or she had about relationships. This can have a ripple effect that causes him or her to question aspects of his or her own relationships and may strain ties with each parent.
Divorce Creates Multiple Levels of Conflict
The news of a parent’s impending divorce can be shocking and difficult to process, even for adults. An adult child who learns his or her parents plan to divorce may feel pulled in one direction or the other. Each parent may look to the child to confide in him or her about aspects of the divorce without realizing how the divorce has affected the child. Parents should do their best to be sensitive to how these situations make their children feel and refrain from trying to weaponize their children against one another.
Adult children will also face uncertainty and stress if a parent starts a new relationship. These situations are often awkward, especially during family gatherings. They may feel awkward about developing relationships with their parents’ new partners, and it is important for families in these situations to discuss their feelings.
Potential Legal Issues for an Adult Child of Divorced Parents
Most adult children will be over the age where child support or visitation would come into play, but an adult child may still face financial uncertainty regarding his or her parent’s divorce and parents’ eventual new relationships. For example, if the parents had a divorce agreement that included inheritance rights to their adult child and one of the parents has a child with a new partner, this could potentially lead to a modification of the parent’s existing agreement.
Ultimately, no parents should ever assume an adult child will simply handle the news of his or her parents’ divorce well. Approach these situations empathetically and keep lines of communication open. Parents of children of all ages should never attempt to use their children as leverage against an ex in any way regardless of their ages; all this does is erode the relationships between the children and their parents and ultimately creates a bigger rift in the family.