Explaining separation to children is difficult and coping with the divorce as a woman is even harder.
As the divorce rate grows high and higher, divorce is becoming more popular in surprising demographics – namely older couples with 15+ years of marriage and grown children. Unfortunately, the children in these situations are often overlooked. Most divorce research deals with addressing young children who may have trouble making sense of the situation due to their lack of life experience. Here are a few steps for coping as an adult child of divorce:
One of the hardest parts of coping with divorce as an adult child is questioning the memories you have of your parent’s relationship and your childhood. You may find yourself going over memories of your past, wondering whether your parents were really happy, or if they were already considering divorce at that point. If your relationship with one or both of your parents is strong enough, you might try asking them to explain when they first decided to divorce. It may be hard to hear, but it will stop the constant stream of questions running through your mind.
Interestingly enough, adult children may find themselves going through one of the classic behaviors typically identified in younger children – attempting to get the parents back together again. If you’re an older child still living at home, you may find yourself setting up “chance” encounters for your parents or discouraging behaviors you believe led to the divorce. Don’t worry too much about this – over time, this should pass naturally as you begin to accept the reality of your parent’s situation.
As your parents go through a divorce, you’ll surely notice that your relationships with them are changing. It can be difficult to see your parents going through the petty bickering and posturing that are all too common in a divorce. You may suddenly see your parents in a new light – one that isn’t necessarily flattering. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to remember that this is a challenging time for your parents and that we all deal with stressful situations in different ways. Just be careful not to let yourself get caught in the middle!
Finally, don’t automatically rule out seeking the advice of a professional therapist or psychologist. Seeing a “shrink” has a certain stigma in our society, but sharing your feelings with a neutral third-party can be extremely helpful when your parents are going through a divorce. Watching your parents divorce can be difficult, especially if one of your parents was the one you turned to for guidance and advice. A therapist can help you sort through these feelings in a safe environment when you feel like you have no where else to go.
Watching your parents divorce is difficult at any age – but the problems faced by adult children of divorce are often overlooked in comparison to those of younger children. Coping with this situation is extremely difficult, as it may shatter many of the beliefs you previously held about your parents. You’ll get through it, but don’t be afraid to seek professional help when necessary to cope with some of the stress you’ll encounter in this situation.
Coping With Divorce As An Adult
Here are 5 pitfalls, in particular, that you avoid during this process.
- Do not engage in open chronic conflict in front of children. It is frightening for children to hear their parents yelling in an uncontrolled fashion, in their presence. Exercise restraint and keep your temper controlled. If the other partner cannot control their own temper, advise them that your conversation will continue at a different time and place, and walk away.
- Try not to speak in a negative way about the other parent to your children, or when children can overhear you. Likewise, try not to discourage them from wanting to see or spend time with the other parent. This can be difficult, again, restraint is key. Note as wlel that children can pick up on your “cues”, so if you’re quite when your former spouse calls the children but you’re rolling your eyes and slamming doors, the children will get the message. They may even take the side of the “distant spouse”.
- Do not try to convince the child(ren) that you are the ‘good’ or ‘fun’ parent by letting them get away with things, buying them presents, letting them stay up as late as they want, allowing them to do things you did not allow before, etc.. One of the most important roles for children to survive divorce with the least amount of injury is to have loving and consistent parents in both households. However, you can only control your own actions. If your former partner insists on letting the child(ren) do whatever they want at his house, then so be it. Maintain your own schedule and house rules. If the children are old enough to understand, explain to them the purpose for your rules (ie. he/she has to go to sleep at 8 p.m. so they can get up in the morning early and be awake and alert for school and after-school activities; he/she can’t have six cookies because this will cause a stomache).
- Do not make promises you can’t or won’t keep. Do not promise to take a child to an event on Saturday morning and then forget it or change your mind.
- Be honest and up front, taking into consideration the capacity of the child to understand the information presented. Having said this, you don’t need to provide details that your child doesn’t need. For example, you do not need to explain to your children that daddy is no longer around because he had an affair with the sleazy lady across the street. This detail doesn’t serve any purpose, and it’s harmful. It is, however, okay to acknowledge to your children that the process is difficult for all of you, but at the same time, reassure them that you love them, and everything will settle down and life will continue. Try to focus, as a family, on the positives that you have, and express appreciation. It will help to take the attention off the adversity.