Children grow up. They go to college. They get jobs (hopefully). They move into their first house. This is the natural order of things, and what we, as parents, hope for our children.
However, many couples seem to be caught by surprise at the major changes that happen when their kids leave the nest. After all the years of focusing on the kids, their absence can often leave a void in the conversation, and in the relationship. Some couples find themselves realizing they have to get to know each other all over again, and find new topics of conversations and activities of interest.
Many couples find themselves unsure of how to proceed in this new phase of their life.
Years of focusing on the kids and ignoring their own relationship may have caused irreparable damage. While the couple was raising the children, their attention was focused on the children and not each other, and they may discover that they have grown apart. Or there may be long held bitterness over an issue that simply can’t be resolved. In fact, I have had many clients come to me acknowledging that they were just “holding on” until the youngest child went off to college.
Some mental health professionals have said that divorce is even harder with adult children than it is with younger kids. It is harder for both the children and the parents. The now-adult children are old enough to be aware of what is going on and they sometimes feel that they should be able to express their opinions on the situation. They are more likely to assert their views regarding their parents’ decision which puts even more pressure on the parents. They become yet another person telling the divorcing parent what they should or should not do.
Even when the children are adults, I strongly discourage my clients from putting them in the middle of the discussion, asking for their advice, or asking them to choose sides.
Their views on their parents getting a divorce should be heard and acknowledged, but they should never be asked “What do you think I should do?” This is unfair to the children and it is unfair to the other spouse.
Also, many times the “adult” children are still dependent on their parents for support, financially and emotionally, especially if they are still in college. Texas law does not provide for the support of adult children except in very limited situations involving an adult disabled child. However, in the collaborative divorce process, the financial and emotional needs of the adult children can be taken into consideration when reaching a final settlement. Choosing the collaborative divorce process to manage the divorce creates a place to make a plan that will be healthy for both parties and for the now adult children.