The term "gray divorce" is becoming widely-used in North Dakota and across the country as the number of divorces among people 50 and older increases. About one-fourth of all divorces in this country involve older couples.
Many people think that an advantage of waiting until you're older to split up is that the kids are grown and therefore less seriously impacted by their parents' break-up. However, adult children of divorce can in fact suffer negative effects. Moreover, many of these are ignored or minimized by family, friends and even therapists.
Adult children have years of memories and family rituals that are suddenly upended when their parents divorce. One social worker notes that women have an especially difficult time because their emotional memory is better than men's.
While divorcing parents with young children often try to shield them from the trauma, this is less likely when children are grown. Parents often treat an adult child as a confidant or ally. The social worker advises people to show empathy but set clear boundaries with their parents when they over-share.
Divorcing parents can also present problems with family events and holidays, particularly when the parents' relationship is volatile or when one or both have a new significant other. What should be a happy time can become fraught with tension and fears of hurting one parent or the other.
Divorce can also take a financial toll on adult children. An expensive divorce may mean that parents don't have the money to help with things they had promised like a wedding, college or first home. It can also diminish their children's inheritance, particularly if one or both parents remarry and have stepchildren. Further, if one parent isn't used to managing his or her own money, a child may have to step in and help out.
Experts say that people need to be able to grieve for the intact family they no longer have. That means finding people who can be sympathetic and not make you feel like you are overreacting or that you should feel lucky that you had married parents for as long as you did.
It's natural to be concerned about your parents' well-being when they are going through such a crucial change in their lives. However, it's important to remember that they have probably given this a lot of thought and are ready to start a new chapter in their lives.
Source: Yahoo! Health, "Why It's So Hard for Adults When Their Parents Divorce" Rachel Nuwer, Jul. 30, 2014