Being a child of divorce is hard…it’s fairly public knowledge. What many of us are not discussing is what happens to the children when they become adults. The pain of the divorce might not be as widespread as the early days, but adult children of divorce still feel the sharp, poignant pain from time to time. Three realities that still evoke pain over the divorce include: celebrations and holidays, no more court ordered custody split, personal relationship conflict.
Celebrations & Holidays
Being an adult child of divorce means there is no “home” to go back to during the holiday season. Typically, the childhood home has been sold, and there is no one place to go back to that feels like home. Things like weddings and birthdays, even the birth of grandchildren, can become a juggling act of schedules. Gatherings that include ex-spouses and often their new significant others become a whole new ball game of boundary setting. Many adult children of divorce yearn for the simplicity of one set of parents. Often we hear about the joys of “gaining more family”, however, as adults managing the multiplying relationships can be confusing and overwhelming.
No Court Ordered Custody Split
Since adult children of divorce no longer have rules of when to see each parent, it can leave them feeling the loyalty split all over again. It’s up to them how they spend their time, and with whom. This might be obvious for some, as they’ve typically grown closer with one parent. However, splitting time and no longer being told what to do can invoke feelings of guilt.
Once parents start to age, adult children of divorce are faced with even more emotions and responsibilities. “Where will my parents retire”? “My parents live in separate towns, how do I choose where to devote my time and energy”? Financial and physical boundaries and resources can quickly be exhausted determining how and when to help take care of aging parents with growing needs.
Personal Relationship Conflict
Getting into serious relationships, or even getting married, can be particularly challenging. Healthy views of marriage and relationships are often marred. Adult children of divorce are typically more cautious when moving toward commitment and long term relationships. However, when conflicts arise in these relationships they are quick to look for the closing door. Finding a place to process these issues is important. They need someone they can check in with…trusted friends, family members, or even a professional counselor, who can help them navigate their own healthy relationships.
We cannot forget about the children of divorce once they grow up. Specific scenarios will remain hard, even when they move toward independence. The loyalty split is still there, and some could argue that after starting their own families, managing the symptoms of divorce becomes even more heavy. Managing complicated family dynamics while taking care of your own family is exhausting. Boundaries and healthy communication is more important than ever, as is tuning into self and caring for your own needs.
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