I’m often asked about divorce and the impact it has on children vs adult children. It is a common belief that divorce will not be as difficult for adult children as opposed to a younger child. Many parents will wait until their child is off to college and believe this to be a good time since they are out of the house. For many adult children the experience of going off to college is new. They are approaching unknown territory, whether it be in or out of state, establishing new friendships, living on their own for the first time, etc., leaving them somewhat vulnerable. Knowing that they can return home for holiday’s and weekends can provide stability and comfort to them even with the knowledge that their parents are not on the best of terms.
Family stability as well as family traditions are important at all times regardless of age. College experience is overwhelming, let alone discovering that your parent’s are now divorcing. They begin to experience the loss of their parents being together and the additional loss of the family unit that has been in place for many years. This is not to say that young children are not impacted by the loss of the family, however, younger children tend to be more resilient and bounce back faster than older children who have lived with their parents for many years.
Parents tend to protect the younger children while divorcing as opposed to the older children, assuming as adults they are aware of the circumstances and are better able to handle the transition. However, adult children tend to take on some of the responsibility and take an active role in the process and become involved in caretaking. This causes stress, tension and oftentimes resentment.
On the other hand, if children whether young or adult witness their parents constant fighting, it can be devastating and more harmful than the actual divorce. I often hear children express a sense of relief once the divorce is announced. Every situation is truly unique and a myriad of factors need to be weighed such as timing, age of your children, safety for you and your children, financial ability to split up as well as other resources on hand.
However, divorced parents must fulfill their responsibilities to their children whether young or adult children.
Every child whose parents divorce has:
1) The right to love and be loved by both of their parents without feeling guilt or disapproval.
2) The right to be protected from their parents’ anger with each other.
3) The right to be kept out of the middle of their parents’ conflict, including the right not to choose sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
4) The right not to have to choose one of their parents over the other.
5) The right not to have to be responsible for the burden of either of their parents’ emotional problems.
6) The right to know well in advance about important changes that will affect their life; for example, when one of the parents is going to move or get remarried.
7) The right to reasonable financial support during their childhood and through your college years.
8) The right to have feelings, to be able to express their feelings and to have both parents listen to how you feel.
9) The right to have a life that is as close as possible to what it would have been if their parents stayed together.
Divorce is never easy. It is probably one of the most challenging and stressful times one can experience. What can affect one in a very profound way, may not affect another. We each process loss differently. It is always best to speak to a licensed professional for emotional support and guidance during these difficult times.
At the Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, we have a team of licensed professionals who can assist you in transition into a healthier lifestyle. We are available day, evening and weekend hours. Visit us at www.hellenictherapy.com or call 908-322-0112.