They're grown and flown--living in their own homes with their own set of friends and family. What goes on in the old homestead shouldn't have that much of an affect on them. They've got their lives. We've got ours. Or so we think.
What we learned when we sold the house our kids grew up in is that they did care about the loss of their old home--not morbidly or in a let's-stop-them mode. But they did feel the pain of parting. They even referred to the sale as being like a divorce--from the house.
A recent New York Times story tells us our grown children are never too old to feel the pain of another form of parting. With the climb in the divorce rate among couples 50 years old and older, therapists are seeing a rise in the number of their adult children seeking help.
A woman who started a blog on the topic--after finding herself emotionally undone by her parents' divorce after 45 years of marriage--said her blog readers left comments on her posts saying their parents' divorce left them feeling "devastated," that "the pain of my parents divorce has brought me to gut-wrenching tears."
As is often true with a divorce when children are young, the kids get dragged into the messiness of a family break-up. For adult children no longer living in the home, it's a slightly different drag: the parents may want to share their pain with their adult children--something that's a no-no in therapists' view. Their advice: Parent up.
Beyond the no-sharing, the burgeoning field of therapy for adult children of divorce has some common sense pointers for those parting ways with their children's other parent:
--Don't announce the news by email or text--or even by phone. Do it in person if that's at all possible and if there's more than one child, try to tell all the kids together--even if it casts a pall on a holiday when you're all finally together.
--As in divorces where young children are involved, adult children still need to be reassured that the divorce isn't the result of anything they did or did not do.
--A divorce this late in the parental marriage often affects an adult child's perception of their own lives when growing up. What clues to unhappiness had they missed? What does a happy marriage look like?
--If there has been a "betrayal of trust"--one parent, say, is leaving the marriage for a new partner--the "sinning" parent shouldn't be defensive or cast blame on others (especially the offended spouse) but ask for forgiveness. Alienation of an adult child can be devastating and long-lasting.