How Divorce Affects Children of Different Ages: Adult Children

undefinedThis blog series we’ve been focusing on how divorce can affect children of different ages. We’ve discussed children from the age of 1 to 18, but what about adult children? With the “grey divorce” phenomenon making headlines and more and more couples choosing to part ways after 30+ years of marriage, that means a rising rate of adult children who are having to learn how to come to terms with their parents’ divorce.

Adult Children


When a couple with grown children decides to divorce, it’s often assumed that the children, as adults themselves, will be able to cope with the news and move forward relatively easily. While this may ultimately be the result, the burden and distress it can cause may be surprising to some.

A primary difference between a child enduring their parents’ divorce and an adult enduring the divorce is that a young child is often protected, to the best of the parent’s ability, from the emotional turmoil and conflict between both spouses. In order to prevent damage that the child may not be able to emotionally work though, parents are generally far more sensitive and private with the affair.

Adult children, on the other hand, often feel the burden of their parents divorce much more directly and personally. Parents are more inclined to unload their burdens throughout the divorce on their adult children. While more mentally equipped to handle these challenges than a young child, hearing the personal details of their parent’s marital demise can be a crushing and wearisome process of any child, no matter their age.

undefinedIn addition to this, adult children are at an age where they’re learning about adulthood themselves—this includes serious relationships and marriage. To learn about the divorce of their parents and the demise of a 30+ year marriage, especially if they were under the impression that the marriage was doing well, can understandably create a sense of doubt in a young adult’s perception of marriage. Other effects of parental divorce on adult children can be increased anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, low self-esteem or decreased performance in academics if they’re enrolled in schooling.

As with any shocking news, especially news that effects the family dynamic, there will be an adjustment period that may include grief, anger, self-doubt or apathy. To help combat this, be open with your children about the situation and answer any questions they may have, but be careful about oversharing or dumping your own relational baggage on them. While they may be adults, they’re still your children, and don’t need to hear the nitty gritty details of your divorce, especially any unnecessary venting about their other parent. If you notice significant behavioral