Big Kids Hurt Too: How To Help Your Adult Children Cope With Divorce

When parents split up, much of the focus tends to be on helping the younger children adapt. However, divorce can be just as devastating for grown adult children, even if they no longer live at home.

Adult children may feel as if their needs are being overlooked. Helping adult children to cope with divorce can help keep the family unit healthy while everyone learns to adjust to a new way of life.

Be a good listener

Encourage open communication, but avoid asking a ton of questions. Let your child take the lead in the conversation. Don't be quick to give advice. Sometimes all they need is someone to listen without telling them what to do.

If they don't feel like talking, let them know you will be available any time they need a listening ear. Assure them that anything they tell you will be kept in confidence. Let them know it's normal to feel hurt or angry.

Don't share every detail

Just because your kids are grown adults doesn't mean you should share all the intimate details of your marriage. If the cause of the divorce involved sensitive issues, such as infidelity or sexual differences, your children do not need to know.

Sensitive matters are better kept between you and your spouse. Spilling the details of an affair or other sensitive issues can make adult children feel uncomfortable and may cause them more hurt and anxiety.

Consider family therapy and counseling

Getting the entire family involved in therapy or counseling, such as with Teri Role-Warren, can be vital to the healing process for everyone involved.  A therapist is not emotionally connected to the family and can see problems and issues from a different perspective.

Through individual counseling sessions, each member of the fractured family unit can learn healthy ways to cope with the divorce. The counselor can evaluate each person's unique struggles and help them learn how to overcome their hurt, fears, and insecurities.

In group therapy sessions, the family can learn effective methods for dealing with blended families and step parenting. They can learn how to interact as a family unit in a new environment.

Never talk negatively about your ex-spouse

Regardless of what caused your divorce, never bash your ex in front of your adult kids. Even if the child voices anger against the other spouse, resolve to keep your opinions to yourself.

The same holds true if your ex is involved with a new partner. As hurtful as it may be, don't speak unkindly about the new person. This person may be your child's step parent in the future. It will make things easier for your adult child if they see you being accepting of the new significant other in your ex's life.

Start new family traditions

Trying to hold on to old family traditions at holidays and birthdays may seem like a comforting idea, but often it's just a reminder of the person missing. Start new traditions.

For instance, if you always had a big family Christmas dinner at your house, plan a family vacation over the Christmas holiday or go out to dinner instead of cooking at home. Work at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen on a holiday. Helping those who are less fortunate can often help you see your own circumstances in a different light.

While divorce is never easy, being aware that adult kids experience hurt and pain too can help keep your family structure intact during a difficult time. Your adult kids won't feel as if their needs are being overlooked, and your entire family will be healthier as you adapt to a new lifestyle.