Direct from
Dr. Lowenstein

How Divorce Affects Adult Children

And how to lessen the impact

When a couple with young children decides to divorce, naturally they will be concerned about how the decision affects their kids. Children in their developmental years are not only dependent on their parents, but they are also impressionable. It’s a lot for them to comprehend.

While it makes sense to be concerned about younger children, it’s important to also realize that adult children are not spared from the emotional and psychological effects of divorce. What’s more, they are being subjected to it in record numbers. According to researchers at Bowling Green State University, the divorce rate among couples 50 and older has roughly doubled since 1990. Many of these couples have adult children.

Although adult children may be living on their own, news of their parents’ divorce is a lot to process. Your marriage was a big part of their childhood, and the end of it creates a very real sense of loss. It may also cast doubt and leave them struggling with some difficult questions:

  • Were you ever truly a happy family or were their problems from the beginning? 
  • If your relationship didn’t last, can theirs?
  • How will this new family dynamic play out in their future, especially as they experience their own life milestones?

These insecurities are not only upsetting and stressful. They may also hinder your children as they navigate their own relationships.

Remember that there is no longer a support system between husband and wife. That means adult children may feel obligated to help one parent or both with their new independence. This can create a lot of pressure, especially as they balance their own responsibilities and sort through their own feelings about the divorce.

Lessening the impact  

As you prepare to share the news of your divorce with your adult children, keep in mind that it will still impact their lives and that their grief is valid. Don’t expect them to take it in stride simply because they’re older. They will still need your support. Divorce can be overwhelming – whether you’re upset or optimistic about the future – but you should still find time to connect with your children and recognize their feelings.

You can’t make the hurt and confusion go away, but there are things you can do to help your adult children cope with your divorce. Put yourself in their shoes and empathize with what they’re going through. Don’t make it more difficult by putting them in the middle. They need both parents, so be willing to put them first and be gracious when it comes to holidays, special events and grandchildren. Your adult children may appreciate straightforward answers and some transparency as they try to understand the end of your marriage, but that doesn’t mean you can treat them as confidants.  

Simply put, let your adult children feel what they feel and give them time to heal. If they seem to be having an especially difficult time with your divorce, encourage them to find additional support through a therapist or support group.

Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.