Advice for Parents of Adult Children of Divorce

By: Wendi Schuller
Last Update: March 07, 2018

As children get older, their parents' divorce will continue to have a lasting effect on their lives. Parents of adult children of divorce should keep the following information and tips in mind.

Parents' divorce can have an impact on children’s lives when they become adults. As with any life transition, divorce can define who they are or have a negligible effect on them. Lessons gleaned from divorce can teach various things. One is learning how to be adaptable, which is valuable in many settings, such as on the job. My sons learned along with me, how to be resilient in turbulent situations. As a result of my parents' divorce, I became more self-reliant and less dependent upon others.

Children of Divorce Often Delay Marriage

Adult children of divorce may become commitment-shy. They do not want a divorce, so do not engage in long-term relationships. I have seen some twenty-somethings routinely break up after three to four months with a person. Others do not want to repeat their parents’ relationship problems, so they work hard to have a good one themselves. These individuals are quick to discuss issues when they are small to prevent any from becoming catastrophic. Yet others try to stick it out in a failing marriage (I am in this group) when it is hopeless. They feel that it is best to have both parents in the house, even if it is like living in a war zone or dead silent. The young adults I encounter are taking their time dating and are not in a hurry to get married. Waiting for the right partner is important, particularly for those whose parents married young or hastily and later got divorced.

Counseling Is Beneficial for Both Young and Adult Children of Divorce

Back when I was a child, my mother and one other were the only two divorced parents in our school. Support for children was not readily available as it is today with nearly half of marriages ending in divorce. My children were assigned a therapist by both attorneys during my contentious divorce. The lads had a safe place to express emotions, and get support. Your youngsters may have sailed through the divorce situation well.

Now that they are adults and nearing marriage, they may have concerns about not repeating parental patterns. Having a session with a professional can help when buried fears or hidden anxieties start to emerge. Getting engaged can be a trigger for unresolved issues that stem from their parents’ marriage. They do not want to partake in verbal sparring matches and wonder if divorce could also be in their future. Meeting with a relationship counselor can ensure that the couple is on the same page and improve their communication. Knowing how to actively listen to and respect a partner’s viewpoint may prevent marital strife down the road.

Keep the Kids Out of the Middle

When one’s offspring are adults, possibly married with kids of their own, it can be tempting to confide in them. It is never their business to know the particulars of your marriage or divorce. Refrain from spilling intimate details regarding the failings of their other parent. It is not fair to expect them to take your side. After a decade or so later, still keep the kids out of the middle and do not put down your ex-spouse.

For Personal Dating Advice, Stick with a Friend or Dating Coach

Even though they are now an adult, that does not make your children your peers. Be careful of asking dating advice from your daughter or son. Inquiring about a good brand of lubricant or condoms is totally out of the question. Requesting their expertise on what is happening in the dating world today is fine, such as whether a check is split on a first date. For more personal advice, go to friends or a dating coach. A parent can talk about who one is dating, but revealing intimate details can be creepy to adult offspring. The advice I ask my sons is professional, such as “Does this line sound all right?” (for my children’s book series now in production). 

Stay in Touch with Your Adult Children

Check in with your adult offspring to make sure they are doing okay. Share what is happening with you, but not your sex life. Do not use them as a source of gossip about your ex. I do not talk about my divorce or their father. I help my sons see the positives in their lives, and having fun is high on our agendas.

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