Gray Divorce: Explaining Divorce to Grown Children

The term Gray Divorce refers to the parting of two adults that have been married for decades. Along with the parting are many years of memories. The Thanksgiving dinner where everyone ate together at a perfectly dressed table. The family weddings, with sweet memories of dancing, or perhaps you have a picture of you together on your child’s wedding day. Together, you both watched grandchildren, who were always thrilled to go to “Grandma and Grandpops” house. Now, together is not forever in your family.

For some, even trying to imagine telling your adult children you are parting after decades may make you cringe. In terms of research and the media, much of the focus is on young children adjusting to divorce. When we think of the “child” of divorce, the image in our minds is often of a tearful child struggling with emotions.
The world of the adult child of a Gray Divorce can be quite complex. Many issues arise and it may be helpful to follow some of these guidelines.

Do not encourage the “blame game” and make your adult children pick sides. There are no winners at this time. You need to all try to be on the same team and be supportive of your choice to divorce. I am sure there has been alot of thought into this painful decision.

Avoid discussion of any personal or intimacy issues. Remember, your children are your children and need to be treated as such. If an adult child asks you to disclose a personal or intimacy issue, and appropriate response may be “ This is making me feel uncomfortable and it should be between the two of us only.”

Be mindful of your role as the parent. You will always be their parent, even if they are 50! It may be very tempting to view your child as a close peer, so be mindful of boundaries.

Last, and most important, there is one thing you must do. What is that? Cherish the positive memories from your time together with your children. Growing up, you were married. You were, and will always be a family. It can sometimes be tempting to minimize those memories, throw out pictures or “forget” good times existed. By doing that, you are denying your history. That history is what made you who you are today.

Everyone who experiences a “gray” divorce will have their own unique journey. If you begin to struggle, it is wise to seek the help of a counselor.

This blog was written by a guest blogger & colleague of Roseann Vanella, Collen Brigid Fitzpatrick, MSW, LCSW of Instrumental Change, LLC.

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