I wrote an article on children and divorce and received a comment from someone wanting more information on how to handle divorce with grown children. There is a lot of information out there about younger children, but not a lot on adult children of divorce.
As parents, our children are our children, and we want to help them as much as possible whether they’re age 3 or age 33. Sometimes, that isn’t possible if we aren’t willing to help ourselves. Take Lauren for example and the dysfunction that continues today, 20 years after her parent’s divorce.
Lauren’s parents don’t have a relationship since they divorced over 20 years ago. Her mom has been nothing but civil towards her dad, but he makes no effort to be in the lives of her and her brother because he has not been healed of the hurt from the divorce. He’s been living in a perpetual pity party of woe is me for 20 years and still talks as if the divorce just happened yesterday.
Lauren’s dad misses out on a lot of the things that go on in Lauren’s life (including Lauren’s marriage and now divorce, and the birth of his only grandchild), simply because it’s so awkward and uncomfortable for her to be around him because he always acts like the victim. Lauren says that she and her brother feel like they have to tiptoe around his feelings because he’s so fragile.
This is dysfunctional and sad. But unfortunately, it is so easy for divorced parents to get stuck in this rut. The minute the divorce happens, they go into overdrive trying to make sure that the kids are okay, but they completely neglect themselves. As a result, they become part of the cause of the same hurt that they are trying to shield their kids from. Trust me you don’t want to be that person. The best thing you can do as a parent for your children is work on being okay yourself. Seek healing.
When we get on a plane, they always say in the event of an emergency you should put on your own mask first before assisting your children. As parents, this is completely against everything that is in our nature because we are programmed to always put our children first.
As we become more seasoned parents, we realize that in certain situations, putting ourselves first at least sometimes is, in essence, doing what is best for our children. Our strength, healing, happiness, and well-being is an inspiration to our children. But our sadness, hurt, anger, and brokenness, is a drain on their joy.
As parents of adult children dealing with divorce, the divorce is your emergency. Before you can worry about helping your children, you first have to take care of your needs. Your children are adults so it is their responsibility to work through their feelings about the divorce on their own. You can pray for them, but it’s not your job to help them through it because they are now adults.
As an adult child of divorce myself, I learned this one the hard way. If your children don’t move through the divorce on their own, they will become victims blaming mom and dad for everything that goes wrong in their life, rather than learning to take control of their own lives. Or they will spend too much time trying to please mom and dad so that there isn’t so much tension post-divorce, that they will neglect their own families which are their first responsibility.
The best thing that you can do to help your children is seek healing for yourself. It will make you a much better person and it will simultaneously remove the stress from your children of feeling like they are in the middle. When they learn that you love them and respect any decision that they make concerning holidays and birthdays, then they will feel less stressed about trying to please you both.
At the end of the day, your children’s first priority is their own families and they shouldn’t be stressed out about mom and dad. Plus, based on experience, as they get older they will most likely spend more time with the parent that is less maintenance and drama free; that usually is the one who is healed and is moving on.
Healing post-divorce is extremely important. It is the difference between a fresh start with the sky as the limit, or decades of dysfunctionality. Teach your children how to be resilient, healed, happy, and thriving by being that way yourself.
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