With the rise of divorce among older adults (those in their 50s and well past that), more and more adults are finding themselves “adult children of divorce” or ACOD. They typically don’t get the level of concern that young children and teens of divorcing parents get. Parents often assume that because their kids are out of the house and have their own lives, their divorce won’t affect them.
What can be even more damaging than not realizing how divorce can affect adult children is when parents turn to their children for support while forgetting that they’re grieving the loss of the parental unit they’ve known their entire lives. Here are a few ways you can prevent that.
Don’t confide in your child as a friend
Parents who consider an adult child their “best friend” often confide details about their marriage and what went wrong that they’d never share with a younger child. By doing that, they cross a line and risk damaging their relationship with them.
Even if your spouse was the one responsible for whatever went wrong, remember that this is your child’s parent as well. It’s one thing to give your child some explanation of why the marriage is ending, but it’s generally best to spare them from the details and save those for close friends, therapists and others in whom you feel comfortable confiding.
Don’t ask your child to take sides
Responsible parents would never disparage a co-parent to a young child or expect them to choose one parent over the other. However, parents often think that because an adult child is old enough to understand adultery, financial irresponsibility or other relationship issues, they can plainly see that they’ve been wronged. Even if that’s the case, both people are still their parents. They can love both of them even if they realize one wasn’t a good spouse to the other.
Don’t rely too much on your child
Adjusting to living alone and taking care of yourself can be difficult after a long marriage. However, it’s best to build a support system that doesn’t make your child the first person you call when you need something. That can upend the parent-child relationship and make them your caregiver long before that’s necessary.
Having a solid support system as you divorce starts with getting experienced legal guidance. This can help you maneuver the process more confidently and let your child (no matter how old they are) continue to be your child.