05th Jan 2018

8 Things Adult Children of Divorce Desperately Want You to Know

In this guest blog Christina McGhee, divorce expert and author of PARENTING APART: how separated and divorced parents can raise happy and secure kids, examines the impact of divorce on adult children. Christina will be speaking on this same topic at our forthcoming thought leadership talk “The Silent Split: The Unacknowledged Impact of Divorce on Adult Children” on Tuesday 30th January 2018. Contact Sarah Cloke at Family Law in Partnership for further details.

Dear parents with older children,

We realise how easy it might be to assume that your choice to divorce won’t really affect us. After all, we’re older now and those days of hands on parenting are long gone.

As young adults, you may think we can handle more or rationalise your situation, maybe even put ourselves in your shoes.

The truth is whether we’re thirteen or thirty; it’s still not easy to hear your parents are calling it quits. Logically we know divorce happens, but when it is your own parents… it feels different.

For these reasons, we’d like to tip you off about a few things that really matter to us.

This will rock our world

You may think because we’re older and out on our own, it will hurt less. It won’t. Even if your relationship wasn’t perfect, the two of you being together is all we have ever known. Expect that we may feel a little shell shocked by your news.

If you’ve been waiting until we left home to do this, don’t be surprised by our anger and hurt. While your intentions may have been good, the fact that you waited will also leave us feeling really guilty. After all, who wants to be responsible for their parents being miserable?

We’ll need time to take it all in so please don’t expect us to just pick up and move on.

Your decision will create doubt

Your marriage was a big part of our lives. It helped shape our ideas about marriage, relationships and family. We will question what was true about our childhood and what wasn’t. If we didn’t see this coming, we’ll ask ourselves if there was ever really love or was it all a lie?

We may even call our own relationships into question. Doubts might creep in about our own ability to have a happily ever after or even just a long-term commitment.

Help us to understand that we can make different choices and history doesn’t have to repeat itself. Reassure us that we can learn from your mistakes and have hope for our own futures

We don’t want to be in the middle

Yes, we get that we’re old enough to hear it all, but that doesn’t mean we want to. We know you may feel scared, confused, angry, upset or just plain gutted. We need you to remember you are still our Mum and Dad.

While we want to be supportive, you need to find someone else who can listen to your rants, be your confidante or hold your secrets. Please don’t expect us to step into those shoes.

It would also help if you didn’t ask us to take sides or feel the same way you do about the divorce.

Don’t overindulge us

We want you to know that we’re struggling and trying to make sense of all this. As we sort through it all, there may be times when we press you for more information.

While we need to know why, do your best to give us a straightforward answer but spare us all the gory details. Although we might not tell you now, we will appreciate it later.

We still need you to be our parents

It’s true, we don’t need you the way we did before. You won’t have to coordinate schedules, make arrangements when we’re sick or figure out how to divvy up the cost of summer camp. However, we will have graduations, family holidays, weddings, first houses and some day may be even children of our own.

Please don’t put us in a situation where we have to figure out how to have a recital without the two of you killing each other. We’d like to know we’re more important to you than the anger and upset you have with each other.

Be gracious

You might think the cutting remarks or jokes you make about one another are funny but they’re not. It makes us feel uncomfortable when you go on and on about how ridiculous Dad’s new girlfriend is or the subtle comments you make about how Mum looks like she’s gained some weight. Because we love you we might let it slide or even play along, but over time we will see you as bitter and we’ll resent it.

Also, when holidays come up, we hope you will keep in mind how hard it is for us to divide our time. Whenever you can be creative about celebrations or willing to share special events, it helps. We know it may be hard not to see us every year for Christmas. When you tell us it’s okay and you hope we have a great time with the other parent, it shows us how much you love us.

Find some way to talk to each other

As we go out into the world, we will face challenges and we’ll need both of you to help us through them. If we’re struggling, in need of help or you’re worried about us, we hope you will pick up the phone and let each other know.

We get that this won’t be easy. At one time, you loved each other enough to become parents. Please do your best to see the good in one another instead of always expecting the worst.

Think about your future

You may not realize it now but your divorce will also impact our future. When you were married you were a support system for each other. In our minds, you would grow old together and help each other out. Now when you get sick or need someone to depend on, you won’t have each other. You will probably need us.

Please think about that. It’s not that we don’t want to be there for you but as our lives change we will have responsibilities to our own families. It would help if you could spend some time thinking about your future. What will retirement look like? What will happen if you get sick? Talk with us about some of those decisions and do your best to make a plan that won’t leave us as your only resource for support.

For more information about Christina McGhee and Parenting Apart, visit Christina’s website.