4 Unique Ways Divorce Affects Adult Children
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By Jamie Daniel, MFT, Guest Author - September 19, 2016

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Conventional wisdom suggests that getting divorced when your children are adults makes for an easier transition and adjustment for the family than divorcing when the children are younger. This may be true in many cases, and in many different aspects. It is for this reason many couples who aren't happy in their marriages will choose to stay together longer. However, adult children of divorce do not escape the effects of the end of their parent's marriage.

Here are 4 unique ways adult children are affected by divorce:

1. Adult Children Know Their Lives Will be More Difficult

Adult children are more mature and tend to think ahead as to how their lives will be affected by their parent's divorce. They're very aware that many things will be different. Holidays, birthdays and other special occasions will now be celebrated separately with both parents. Celebrating two Thanksgivings instead of one requires additional time out of their lives as they try to juggle between their jobs, travel, and spending equal time with both of their parents, neither of which they want to suffer hurt feelings. Weddings and the birth of grandchildren will present new challenges, especially if their parents do not get along. For adult children, feeling sentimental about their childhoods can also come into play as they are aware they will only see both of their parents together again a handful of times. 

2. Adult Children Can Feel Compelled to Take Sides

If the parents engage in conflict and blame each other for the divorce, adult children can sometimes feel compelled to take sides. They may join and defend one parent and blame the other. Sometimes the children are split and take different sides creating a rift in their relationships. The fallout of divorce within a nuclear family can create tremendous strain in all aspects of their lives and relationships.

3. Adult Children are Often Leaned On

Adult children are often leaned on for emotional support when their parents get divorced. Here is where appropriate boundaries can get lost, as parents now look at their children as adults. Adult children of divorce are just as unhappy when they're put in the middle by their parents, and they don't feel comfortable taking on the role of their parent's best friend. Where younger children are thought to be more protected by their parents through the process, adult children can be made to feel they need to help their parents through the process.

4. Adult Children Unwillingly Become Part of a Group

Adult children of divorce are now unwillingly part of a growing group of young adults whose parents are getting divorced. Statistics show that as children grow up and leave the nest, more and more couples are evaluating whether they want to stay married. People over 50 are the largest growing group to seek divorce. No child really wants their parents to divorce, even if they intellectually understand why they should. Growing up and as young children, they thought of their families as an intact unit. Though they're now out of the home creating lives of their own, they must re-identify themselves as children of divorced parents.

Adult children of divorce are more mature when this transition impacts their family. They're also more capable of having a detached perspective on their parent's decision, rather than internalizing it the way young children sometimes do. All that being said, they cannot avoid feeling the ramifications and the new demands that their parent's divorce places on their own lives.

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