Why parental divorce can have unique impacts on adult children

When couples with children divorce, the impact of the break-up on the kids is usually uppermost in their minds. However, people who divorce when they're in their 50s or older and have grown children often give far less thought to the impact on their kids. After all, they're out of the house. They have their own lives, marriages and families.

However, parental divorce can be difficult on adult children. They've never known their parents as anything but a couple. They assumed at this point that they'd be together forever. It can rock their world, even if it has no direct impact on their lives.

Unlike younger children, they may feel like no one is considering their feelings. They may feel selfish for wanting their parents to stay together even if they're not happy.

More practically, they may feel a new burden to care for their parents if they aren't going to take care of each other. A parent who has never lived alone or at least hasn't cared for him- or herself in many years may come to rely on adult children.

The 1986 movie "Nothing in Common," starring Tom Hanks, comes to mind. He plays an up-and-coming advertising executive who thought he was out on his own when his parents separate and he is forced into the role of physical and emotional caretaker for them. He learns more than he wanted to know about both of them and their marriage -- a common dilemma for adult children of divorce. Further, adults whose parents divorce may also feel obligated to help one or both of them out financially.

Sometimes, they think they're doing fine with their parents' divorce until the holidays roll around. As one person put it, that's when "it hit me and I realized how different things were going to be....Our family traditions are gone."

If you are going through a divorce and you have adult children, it's important to be aware of all of this, to be cognizant of their feelings and not to rely on them for more than they're able or willing to give you. It also may be necessary to look at your estate plan to make sure that it reflects your wishes for yourself and your children as you move forward in this new phase of your life.

Source: Florida Today, ""Gray divorce" affects millennials as parents split," Jessica Saggio, July 01, 2016

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