As adults facing their parents’ divorce, so-called “Gray Divorces,” confusion and doubt can overshadow children’s lives. Men and women whose parents have decided to end their marital relationship after a long history of togetherness may simply feel disoriented and uncertain about their future. It’s normal for adult children of late life divorce to question the past and future of their family and wonder how to come to terms with the changes that need to be made.
Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that parents over fifty are twice as likely to get divorced as those younger than fifty. This statistic has brought an increase in the number of gray divorces, also known as “silver splits” or “silent splinters.”
This substantial change can leave adult children wondering how to navigate these unknown waters during a time when families have been faced with several difficult decisions. The uncertainty can infuse both past and present life choices, affecting one’s entire family. By understanding the power of communication and setting personal boundaries, adult children can pave a path of healing and growth.
When dealing with parental divorce, it’s important to give yourself time to reflect and make sure you have an outlet or form of stress relief such as exercise or journaling. Feeling supported and seen by others who understand can also help process these feelings in a healthy way. Consider talking to someone outside your family — like a counselor, therapist, or support group — who is equipped to handle a variety of reactions and emotions regarding parental divorce. Also, it may be helpful to take a step back from your family members to find comfort and balance.
It’s also essential to set boundaries with both parents during this period. Setting boundaries allows the adult child to determine how much involvement they want in the divorce proceedings, instead of being dragged directly into the chaos. It is a way of showing respect to oneself and one’s parents. Small steps towards understanding and respect within a supportive family system can begin to build trust in a more positive parenting dynamic.
Healthy communication is a major step while facing parental divorce. Expressing thoughts and feelings calmly to both your parents demonstrates that you value their opinion and respect them as adults. Established boundaries should give you space to protect your emotions and honor the opinions of both parents without getting caught in the crossfire.
Sharing stories in the form of art and creative writing is also a great way to process the feelings of a divorce. As adults, creating a personal narrative around the divorce can holistically explore grief, pain and trauma surrounding the situation and help create a sense of peace.
Adult children of the gray divorce must remember that the divorce process should emphasize self care and personal growth. Although uncertainty is a part of the journey, communicating needs and setting boundaries for yourself can help manage the doubts associated with a postdivorce family.