How To Deal With Your Parents’ Divorce
Although divorce among the baby boomer and older generations is becoming more common every year, a break-up of older parents tends to catch grown up children completely off-guard, even if it’s obvious that the marriage has been on the rocks for many years.
Watching parents that you love struggle through the throes of divorce is tough, but it’s possible for families to survive (and even thrive) during this difficult time. Here’s how:
Don’t try to parent your parents.
Even if you love your parents and you have the best intentions, you may make matters worse. Don’t attempt to fulfill the role of counselor, accountant or attorney. Be sympathetic and supportive as you can, but let your parents navigate the divorce on their own.
Support both parents equally.
Strive to be unbiased and never choose one parent’s side over another. Avoid getting caught in the middle of two warring parents.
It’s okay to express your emotions.
Harboring your feelings can cause stress and resentment in the long run. Discuss the matter calmly and respectfully and keep in mind that your parents are the only people who know the entire story behind the end of the marriage.
Seek outside help.
Talk to a counselor or a close friend if you continue to feel angry, even if you’re sure your feelings are justified.
Set healthy boundaries.
Call a halt if your parents are relying on you too much, or if they are telling you things you don’t want (or need) to know. Similarly, put your foot down and don’t allow one parent to trash talk the other in your presence.
It’s normal to experience feelings of betrayal, but remember that a divorce involves your parents. As difficult as it is, it really isn’t about you.
Accept the change.
Maintain your family traditions as much as possible, but be flexible and willing to adjust to the new circumstances. Accept the sad fact that things aren’t going to be the same.
Allow yourself to grieve.
Acknowledge that this is a painful loss and remember that things will get easier in time.
Navigating the world after a divorce is a completely challenging and emotionally wrenching experience in and of itself. Though the past is put behind them, going forward may take a long time for your parents as well.
In the movies, it’s depicted that one spouse leaves so that he or she can go live the thrilling fantasy they’ve been dreaming of while the other spouse simply lives in secluded loneliness and pines away. In reality, those who are getting divorced are commonly getting “no-fault” divorces. Couples who are getting divorced in their 50s and 60s realize that they still have a lot of life to live and want to go after it in a different way. Giving your parents space and support may be a delicate balancing act. Ensure that you, too, get enough rest and mental support.
Give your loved ones the time that they need to move on to their new lives. Allow them to talk to you and reach out to them when you sense they are feeling down.