Dealing with divorced parents as an adult can be quite a devastating experience, as the idealistic image of your childhood fractures before your eyes. Whether your parents’ marriage was rooted in conflict, or their divorce sprung out of “nowhere”, the impact can be immense, even if the “child” is well into adulthood. Suddenly, family gatherings and dynamics become complicated and burdensome. Your perception of love is tarnished, as you never imagined a world without your parents together. Dramatic changes in your life require time and patience. Eventually, you will settle into a new sense of normalcy. In the meantime, I’ve compiled some essential tips to overcoming this tumultuous adjustment.
1. Confront your emotions head on
Although you are now an adult, that doesn’t mean you can suppress your true feelings. Allow yourself room to grieve this loss. Divorcing parents often impacts your perception of truth and innate value systems. Allow yourself time to process these adjustments, even if that means seeking professional psychological help. Many family therapists are specifically trained to aid your healing process, and find healthy coping mechanisms during turbulent periods. Additionally, finding new hobbies and investing in personal wellness is the perfect outlet for pent up anger and grief. Harness your emotions, and funnel it through a creative medium!
3. Talk to other friends and family members
You definitely don’t want to get trapped in the bubble of divorce life, by only talking to your parents. The world is still revolving; life goes on! Engage with friends and other family members to maintain a sense of sanity, and for advice about your current state of emotions. Most likely, you have a friend (or two) with divorced parents. Ask them about their experiences, and what coping mechanisms they found helpful. Finding a sympathetic ear in a close confidant can alleviate a lot of the pain and loneliness. You are not alone in your struggle. SO many people have dealt with the misery of divorce, and everyone comes out the other end. You will get through this! Talking to other family members is also essential, as they share an intimate perspective of the situation. You know the saying “misery loves company”? Well, that’s definitely the case during family drama. Your siblings or other close family members are likely encountering a similar range of emotions. Don’t hold back sharing your thoughts and feelings!
3. Openly communicate with both parents (if possible)
Communication is key to maintaining healthy relationships with both of your parents. Of course, this is not always possible given toxic, contentious situations. However, honest conversations are pivotal to unburdening your feelings, addressing your concerns, and pragmatically coordinating the future of the family. Don’t be afraid to dive deep, unpack childhood memories, and discuss your worries. Your parents are likely just as anxious to facilitate a healthy dynamic that includes you in their lives. Recognize that they are not infallible, and work together to create your version of a functional divorced family.
4. Adjust your schedule to carve out time for both parents
It’s important to provide attention and love for both of your parents during this devastating period of adjustment. With divorce, there often comes a power struggle to prove your “superiority” as a parental figure. Assuage their fears by spending time with both parents, while maintaining boundaries. You do NOT want to be caught in the middle of a fight for attention. Placate their fears before it devolves into a toxic dynamic.
5. Be receptive to new partners in your parents’ life
Shunning new partners in your parents’ life will only increase the drama and tension. Remember that nobody is being “replaced”; your parents were simply not meant to stay together. You can still relish the memories, without dragging them along as baggage. Life changes. People change. And sometimes divorce can be the most responsible decision two people can make! This doesn’t mean you have to start calling Dad’s new girlfriend “Mom”, but you should be cordial and receptive of her presence. Of course, there are exceptions to this ideal, when your parent chooses a clearly incompatible, destructive partner. However, their personal life is not for you to solve. You can provide insight or advice, but at the end of the day, they are still your parent, and you are still the child. It’s okay to step back from the role of mediator.
6. Avoid taking sides
Even if there clearly was a person “at fault” for the divorce, attempt not to take sides, or team up with siblings against a parent. While this may be your natural inclination, I promise it will only bite you in the back. Your future self will thank-you for not feeding into the negativity! Maintaining functional, healthy dynamics requires immense compassion and restraint, but it is possible. Discuss your thoughts with siblings, and encourage them to facilitate productive, positive conversations with both parents.
7. Set boundaries with communication.
You are not their parent or therapist. You are the (grown-up) child. Oftentimes, parents lean heavily upon children from emotional support during a divorce. And this is normal, to some extent. However, it is not your job to facilitate communication between your parents and discuss the intricate details of the divorce. This burden is too heavy for a child to carry, and should be left for professional counselors, psychologists and mediators. Preserve your time, energy, and familial relationships by setting firm boundaries, early on.
8. Don’t let your parents’ divorce prevent you from finding love.
People with divorced parents often harbor negative views of love, as their image of “forever” is inevitably shattered. However, avoiding potential relationships due to these fears will prevent you from living your fullest life! You deserve to be loved, vulnerable, and find happiness in life. Your parents’ divorce is not a death sentence.
Overcoming a divorce requires you to tap into hidden reserves of strength, patience, and compassion. Time will be your best friend, as you slowly, but surely, adjust to new patterns. Though the present moment may seem daunting, I promise there is hope on the horizon!
Written By: Brianna Rauchman