Adult Children of Divorce: How to Help Your Children During Your Gray Divorce
The divorce rate in America is at an all-time high, and if you are one of the increasing number of adults who are going through a divorce later in life, you may be wondering how to best help your children through it. “Gray divorce” can be especially difficult for children, as they may feel like they are caught in the middle of their parent’s conflict. This situation may be something you never thought you would be facing, but it is possible to help your children, even as adults, adjust to the changes that your divorce will bring into their lives.
Here are five ways to help them process the divorce in a healthy way:
- Talk to your children about what is going on and why you have decided to divorce. Be honest with them and allow them to express their feelings.
When you divorce and you have young children, there is a level of openness that may not be appropriate simply due to their developmental capacity to understand what’s going on around them. However, divorcing when your children are adults often means it’s important to be more open and honest about the reality of your situation and your decision to divorce.
This doesn’t mean disparaging their other parent, but rather simply being more transparent about the reality that sometimes, even after raising a family together, two people who used to be in love can still find themselves unhappy in their marriage. Explain that even after building a life and making plans to spend forever with each other, sometimes it’s really better for both parties to move into the second half of their lives separately.
- Keep communication open and civil between you and your ex-spouse.
Just like my advice when you’re divorcing with younger children, try to avoid arguing in front of your children or using them as a way to communicate messages to each other. Even as adults, this type of behavior can still be damaging for them. While there may be fewer situations when you find you must communicate about the children, there may still be times when you need to communicate how to handle things with your children going forward.
For example, some couples who divorce with adult children make the decision to still celebrate holidays together so that no one has to miss special times with families that may now include grandchildren. In other families, couples decide that it will be easier to enjoy their special times with children and grandchildren separately. Sometimes, being able to include your adult children in these decisions is necessary, which makes communicating openly and in a civil manner that much more important.
- Respect and encourage your children’s relationship with their other parent.
Even though you are no longer together, it is important for your children to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents. You should encourage your children to maintain relationships with their other parent just as you would if this divorce had happened when they were much younger.
Admittedly, this can be difficult, especially if your reasons for divorce are especially painful, but it is still important for their emotional well-being, even if they are adults and know much more about the reality of your marriage than they would as smaller children. You should still strive to make sure your children know that they are not responsible for the divorce. It could never be their fault, and they should not feel guilty about it or responsible for taking care of you now that you are single.
- Be there for your children. Let them know that you love them and that they will always have a place in your home, even if it’s not the home they grew up in.
This is one of the most important things you can do for your adult children during and after divorce. They need to know that they are still loved and that nothing has changed in how much you care for them. You may not be able to give them the home they grew up in, but you can give them a place where they feel comfortable and safe when visiting with you. If you have grandchildren, try to include them as much as possible too.
Allow your children and their families to feel safe sharing memories of when the family was still intact and how they feel about the way things are now. Try to always remember that your divorce means big changes for the way their families may experience life going forward too, so having empathy for the younger generations in your family will go a long way to preserving your healthy relationships with them going forward.
- Consider meeting with an estate planning attorney prior to or immediately after your decision to divorce.
When you’ve built a life with someone for over twenty or more years, it’s more likely that you have both acquired assets and wealth far more valuable than younger couples who are divorcing. It’s also more likely that you’ve made plans through those years on how to divide your estate or set up your estate planning to ensure your children are properly cared for in your absence. When you have adult children and potentially grandchildren, but your financial estate will now be divided and allocated by your state’s divorce laws, you may want to consider bringing in an estate planning attorney to offer advice on how best to go about achieving the same goals for your heirs now that you will have two separate estates post-divorce.
Another consideration, which will depend on each spouse’s likelihood of re-marriage, is how best to protect your post-divorce assets that were built during your marriage for the children of your marriage. If you and your spouse both have significant assets that you’ve always intended to be given to your children after your deaths, but you then divorce, those assets may transfer to your ex’s new spouse if certain protections are not put into place prior to that new marriage.
Being able to have open discussions with your ex about these issues may seem premature, especially if neither of you considers yourself old enough to be worried about death, but your willingness to continue working together to do what’s best for your children will likely lessen your worries about the future. It will also be appreciated by your adult children who will be saved from the inevitable family drama and in-fighting that will likely happen if you don’t make such plans.
In conclusion, divorce is tough enough on everyone involved, but it can be especially difficult for adult children to see their parents go through such a major life change after so many years together. Using the tips in this article will hopefully ease the transition for everyone and allow your family to maintain healthy and close relationships for years to come, even after the divorce is final.
If you and your spouse are considering divorce, especially a divorce later in life, don’t make any decisions about how to proceed before talking with a trusted attorney in your area. Your divorce and any settlement you create will be subject to your state’s divorce laws. Without discussing your situation with an experienced attorney, your agreement may not be what you want or what is beneficial to your future.
Ben Stevens has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over twenty-five years, handling all matters of family law, such as prenuptial agreements, divorce, separation, alimony, and child custody. Our firm is well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
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Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
ABOUT J. BENJAMIN STEVENS
Ben.Stevens@offitkurman.com | 864.598.9172
Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina. His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.
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