4 Ways divorce can be hard on adult children


Even though the divorce rate for the general population is falling, the divorce rate for those over the age of 50 has more than doubled since 1990. The divorce rate for adults over the age of 65 has more than tripled. 

To put these statistics in perspective, let’s take a moment to see where Americans once were. Fifty years ago, only 2.8% of Americans over the age of 50 were divorced. Today more than 15% of Americans over the age of 50 are divorced, the “Gray Divorces”. 

With this paradigm shift, the adult children of divorcees have become their own special breed of divorce casualties. 

4 Ways Divorce Can Be Harder on Adult Children 

1.Parents KNOW that divorce will hurt their young children, but they ASSUME that it will not affect their adult children.

Divorcing parents with young children, it is standard operating procedure to assure them that the divorce is not their fault. Young children will have the tendency to blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. What parents with adult children might not acknowledge is their children may feel guilty about their parents’ divorce, but guilt is different.

What if their parents only stayed married because they were young at the time.  Mom and Dad did not want to disrupt their young children’s lives and kept things as normal as possible. Once the kids moved out of the house and were on their own, mom and dad decide to finally get the divorce they were holding off on for fifteen years. Who wants to think their parents were miserable for years but stayed together just for the sake of their brothers and sisters? 

Action Steps You May Take: Talk to your kids. Let them know that this was YOUR decision (or the other spouse’s) that was made, not theirs. Reiterate, you are still the parent even though they are now adults they are still the children. Remind your children that you will continue to live your life in a manner that you believe in and do what is best for yourself, as well as your adult children. 

2. Parents of young children usually do not lean on their kids for emotional support during a divorce. Yet parents of adult children often do. 

Getting divorced, the participants will usually get caught up in their emotions. This is normal and part of the process. Your children are going to be emotional about the divorce too. Should you be a divorcing parent with young children, everyone will tell you to take extra care of your children.  But what about the kids when they are adults? 

What You Can Do: Ask your children what they are thinking and feeling. After doing so, just sit there and listen to what they have to say! You are going through painful situation as your world has been turned upside down. It is not an easy time. Let your children share with you their emotions. Even if you may not like what you hear, let them get their feelings out in the open. Also keep the divorce in broad terms, but please spare them the details. 

3. Because there is no court ordered parenting schedule, it is often more difficult for adult children to repair broken relationships with a divorced parent. 

While you may think that only young children can be alienated from their parent’s truth is, ANY child can be alienated from his/her parent. If you keep telling your child horrible stuff about their other parent, they will either hate that parent, hate you, or hate both of you. 

What You Can Do: Take the high road! You do not need to overshare personal information with your children about your spouse. There does not need to be an effort on your end to make your spouse look bad to your children. Remember that your spouse is also your child’s other parent. They deserve to have a relationship with both of their parents. The children do not need to be put in a situation where they feel pressured to pick sides. 

4. A late in life divorce threatens older adult’s financial security. Their adult children are often left having to financially support one or both of their parents during and after the divorce. 

When a divorce happens in our thirties or forties there is time to replenish what was lost financially from a divorce. If a divorce occurs as the parents are approaching retirement or have already retired, this scenario does not offer the same time frame to recapture the money that may have been lost from a divorce. 

What You Can Do: What looked like a lot of money to live on in your senior years doesn’t carry the same cache when it is cut in half. Be practical with your financial decisions.

A household with two Social Security benefits coming in each month, will now be one Social Security benefit coming in each month. Meet with a Certified Divorce Analyst or a financial advisor to have your new retirement plan mapped out. Know what your income will be and the sources of where it will come from when your divorce is settled.

Maybe. your children will want to help you out financially. However, ARE they able to help you out financially without cutting things out of their family’s financial future? You MAY want to keep the family house because of all the memories that have occurred there. ARE you able to afford the family home on your own? These are some of the hard questions that need to be answered. 

Nikki Boxler