Dear parents with older children,
We realize how easy it might be to assume that your choice to divorce won’t really affect us. After all, we’re older now, and those days of hands-on parenting are long gone.
As young adults, you may think we can handle more or rationalize your situation… maybe even put ourselves in your shoes.
Truth is whether we’re thirteen or thirty; it’s still not easy to hear your parents are calling it quits. Logically we know divorce happens, but when it’s your own parents, it feels different.
For these reasons, we’d like to tip you off about a few things that really matter to us.
This will rock our world
You may think because we’re older and out on our own, it will hurt less. It won’t. Even if your relationship wasn’t perfect, the two of you being together is all we have ever known. Expect that we may feel a little shell shocked by your news.
If you’ve been waiting until we left home to do this, don’t be surprised by our anger and hurt. While your intentions may have been good, the fact that you waited will also leave us feeling really guilty. After all, who wants to be responsible for their parents being miserable?
We’ll need time to take it all in, so please don’t expect us just to pick up and move on.
Your decision will create doubt
Your marriage was a big part of our lives. It helped shape our ideas about marriage, relationships, and family. We’ll question what was true about our childhood and what wasn’t. If we didn’t see this coming, we’ll ask ourselves if there was ever really love, or was it all a lie?
We may even call our own relationships into question. Doubts might creep in about our own ability to have a happily ever after or even just a long-term commitment.
Help us to understand that we can make different choices, and history doesn’t have to repeat itself. Reassure us that we can learn from your mistakes and have hope for our own futures.
We don’t want to be in the middle
Yes, we get that we’re old enough to hear it all, but that doesn’t mean we want to. We know you may feel scared, confused, angry, upset, or just plain gutted. We need you to remember you are still our Mom and Dad.
While we want to be supportive, you need to find someone else who can listen to your rants, be your confidante or hold your secrets. Please don’t expect us to step into those shoes.
It would also help if you didn’t ask us to take sides or feel the same way you do about the divorce.
Don’t overindulge us
We want you to know that we’re struggling and trying to make sense of all this. As we sort through it all, there may be times when we press you for more information.
While we need to know why, do your best to give us a straightforward answer but spare us all the gory details. Although we might not tell you now, we’ll appreciate it later.
We still need you to be our parents
It’s true, we don’t need you the way we did before. You won’t have to coordinate schedules, make arrangements when we’re sick, or figure out how to divvy up the cost of summer camp. However, we will have graduations, family holidays, weddings, first houses and someday maybe even children of our own.
Please don’t put us in a situation where we have to figure out how to have a recital without the two of you killing each other. We’d like to know we’re more important to you than the anger and upset you have with each other.
You might think the cutting remarks or jokes you make about one another are funny, but they’re not. It makes us feel uncomfortable when you go on and on about how ridiculous Dad’s new girlfriend is or the subtle comments you make about how Mom looks like she’s gained some weight. Because we love you, we might let it slide or even play along, but over time we will see you as bitter and we’ll resent it.
Also, when holidays come up, we hope you will keep in mind how hard it is for us to divide our time. Whenever you can be creative about celebrations or willing to share special events, it helps. We know it may be hard not to see us every year for Christmas. When you tell us it’s okay, and you hope we have a great time with the other parent, it shows us how much you love us.
Find some way to talk to each other
As we go out into the world, we will face challenges, and we’ll need both of you to help us through them. If we’re struggling, in need of help, or you’re worried about us, we hope you will pick up the phone and let each other know.
We get that this won’t be easy. At one time, you loved each other enough to become parents. Please do your best to see the good in one another instead of always expecting the worst.
Think about your future
You may not realize it now, but your divorce will also impact our future. When you were married, you were a support system for each other. In our minds, you would grow old together and help each other out. Now when you get sick or need someone to depend on, you won’t have each other. You will probably need us.
Please think about that. It’s not that we don’t want to be there for you, but as our lives change, we’ll have responsibilities to our own families. It would help if you could spend some time thinking about your future. What will retirement look like for you? What will happen if you get sick? Talk with us about some of those decisions and do your best to make a plan that won’t leave us as your only resource for support.
Are you an adult child of divorce? What do you wish your parents would do to make things easier for you?