One of the benefits of becoming older is that our children are now mature individuals. Relationships in which we have complete control over the rules and penalties evolve into more balanced peer relationships. Perhaps they are now seeking our help parenting their children rather than seeking ways to rebel. It is good to talk honestly with your adult children about topics you would not discuss with them when it was your obligation to protect them from things that would upset their lives and cause them to grow up faster than you would want. It is liberating to enjoy a glass of wine with your child and discuss topics you would normally discuss with a friend.
Your adult child, however, is still your child. Adult children consider themselves to be half Mom and half Dad. Hearing their parents speak negatively about each other or reveal sensitive details of a divorce puts them in an unpleasant position. This is why it is important to have proper legal advice to ensure that you can proceed with the least negative impact on them.
Here are some suggestions for dealing with your adult children after a divorce:
- Do not assume that your children have the same feelings towards your spouse that you have. They have a different impression of them than you do, which is normal.
- Be prepared for your children to be upset. You were their role model for how families functioned, and that is suddenly gone. They may start to doubt their ideas about marriage, relationships, and children. If you have kept your marital problems private, as you should, your children will be astonished and saddened by the divorce. Allow children to express and process their emotions in their unique ways. Do not tell them if you have waited until your children have left home to divorce. It instills unneeded guilt.
- Never force the kids to choose sides. Because they already know all of the players, it is natural to want your children to listen to and solve your problems. Children may be old enough to hear the specifics of your divorce, but that does not imply they want or should. Find another person to listen to your complaints or to keep your secrets. They will appreciate it more than you realize.
- Consider the future. Your children still require your assistance in some form. If they are not married, they will want both of you to attend their graduations, holidays, and weddings. Even if you are divorced, they want you to be a grandparent if they have children.