Divorce isn’t easy for anyone. It can have a profound effect on both your mental and physical health at any age. It can affect every aspect of your life: your children, personal relationships with friends and your ability to perform in your professional life. Divorcing in our 50s and 60s, also known as “Grey Divorce,” is a whole new world. It’s like opening up new doors and opportunities filled with struggles and cocktails. Cocktails full of emotions and cocktails for a fresh start!
Telling your child or children, whether they be old or young can be complicated, scary and nerve-racking. Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW, lists some guidelines for adult children who are dealing with their parent’s divorce.
- Maintain healthy boundaries. If you feel one or both of your parents is sharing too much personal information, or relying too heavily on you for support, they need to know how you feel. Be honest about the importance of you needing to maintain a healthy boundary during this time. This is not your divorce.
- Resist being in the middle. You can be understanding if one or both parents ask you to settle a disagreement or expect you to be their counselor or arbitrator. But saying something like “I’m sorry you’re hurting but I need to stay out of this,” will hopefully communicate the message you desire. Reminding them once again, this is not your divorce and you love them both.
- Express your feelings calmly and clearly. Daughters in particular may find themselves feeling emotionally upset by the news of their parents’ split. According to Louann Brizendine M.D., women value emotional expression more than men do and their memory is better for emotional memories due to their amygdala being more activated by emotional nuance. Don’t let your emotions overwhelm you. Take a deep breath, get fresh air, and don’t react immediately to a feeling. However, it’s important for both you and your parents to express that feeling with compassion.
- Strive to not let your parents’ divorce define your relationship with them. Enjoy pleasurable activities together and during those times you might say “Let’s not talk about the divorce right now.”
- Maintain contact with both extended families. If you want to keep your relationship with both of your parents’ families, be clear with your parents that this is your objective.
- Stop comparing your romantic relationships to your parents’. Attempt to see yourself as capable of learning and letting go of the past, rather than repeating it. All relationships are different, all people are different—there are no two relationships alike.
- Face your fear of commitment if it exists and embrace the notion that commitment has to be made with some degree of uncertainty.
Grey Divorce is upsetting, but talking about it with both your parents can help not just yourself but both of them also. It’s important to remember, despite the divorce, you are still family and have two parents that love you very much. Remember to continue to reciprocate the love, compassion and understanding.