We recently wrote an article about how divorce affects grown-up children. There are many adults out there who want to support their parents through a divorce, but are not sure what to do, how to act or what to say.
You will have a lot of mixed emotions if your parents are divorcing. If you are an adult then these mixed emotions come with an added sense that you have no right to feel the way you do, as it is young children who are affected by children divorcing, not adults. However, having something as steadfast and constant as your parents’ marriage break apart will affect you and come as a shock. Many children start to doubt their own relationship with their partner and look at life differently. Here are a few ways to support your parents through their divorce and aid your own healing in the process:
Avoid taking sides
Even in the case of an infidelity there is not always a good-cop-bad-cop situation. One of your parents may have been unfaithful due to being in an unhappy marriage for many years and they may have recently found their happiness. You won’t be happy if you demonstrate anger towards one parent and not the other. As an adult you will have a range of experiences, try to draw on these and realise that your parents can’t be perfect people and to forgive them for their mistakes.
Expect boundaries to be re-drawn
In the cases of mental or physical abuse that you may or may not have previously been aware of, you may need to support one parent heavily through the divorce process. This will involve re-writing some of the parent-child relationship rules. This will be difficult for both of you, but if they have no one else to turn to, expect to shoulder some burden while your parents establish their lives after their divorce.
If you feel that one of your parents is confiding too much in you and making you feel very uncomfortable, or disrupting your life too much then voice your concerns before it is too late.
Don’t act as a messenger
If your parents are no longer on speaking terms make it absolutely clear that you are not there in order to pass messages back and forth. This can be a tempting thing for parents to do, but it won’t help you in the long run.
Be prepared for new partners
After a divorce new partners will come into your parents life at some stage. Be prepared for this and let your parents know that you will welcome any partner that makes them happy but at your own pace. Don’t feel obliged to suddenly start playing happy families straight away, get to know new partners slowly so you can establish a solid relationship. It will be strange to see your parents with someone else, especially if it is with someone you weren’t expecting, such as with someone much younger or with a same-sex partner. Your parents may suddenly have a new burst of life after their divorce, so roll with the punches and let them know at what stage you would like to meet any new partners.
Look out for the positives
A parents divorce is not all about unhappiness, you will discover some positives in the situation and you should enjoy these. Many children report that their relationships improve with both parents as they get to know them as people rather than just ‘the parents’. If your parents’ marriage has been unhappy then it can be a wonderful thing to see them enjoying life again and establishing themselves as a new person with new possibilities.