Thursday, March 1, 2012

Two Pitfalls: Parents, Choose Your Confidants Wisely.

I haven't written for a long time here, and I'm working on a large catch up post these last couple of days. I still get lots of mail, however, and I'd say that it's evenly split between other adult children of divorce and parents considering or proceeding with divorce.

Today I quickly want to say very clearly that I believe there are two pitfalls for a family experiencing this kind of trauma, that both are completely avoidable, and my experience leads to believe that failure to do so increases everyone's grief exponentially.

The first is really simple, and unfortunately if you are an adult child, it's totally out of your control. Parents, I am talking to you:

Please, please don't get involved with anyone else until your divorce is legally finalized.

I mean that very literally: don't date, don't nurture a "special friendship" with the possibility of becoming more, just    don't     do    it. You do need support right now, so please seek it with people who can offer it to you in a straightforward way. There is no way I could possibly speak to all of the hurt inflicted by bringing another person into your family too soon, and you will not be able to tell when "too soon" has passed. You will have to give your children the time to evaluate that for themselves; honor their efforts and respect their needs when as they come to understand them.

ACODS, the second pitfall is the responsibility of parents and their children alike, and I've written on it before but I want to say it very clearly here now:

Parents, do not use your children as confidants. ACODs, refuse to be used in that capacity.

Parents, you are parents to your children as long as you live. They deserve a safe harbor and your best intentions. Getting divorced is a kind of wound that initiates a deep need for expression and self care. Please tend to yourself. And please don't place the burden of being a healing ear upon your children - they have plenty to wounds of their own, and it's likely that if you ask them to, your children will put care of you above care of themselves. Don't put them in that position.

ACODs, being a "good child" doesn't mean letting insidiously toxic confessions be dumped all over you in the name of helping your parents. If they don't have the sense not to confide in you, refuse to participate. You will be attacked for this. You may feel deeply guilty. But trust me, no one's going to honor your needs if you don't. In the long run, you have to love yourself and right now you need self love more than ever I bet.

I didn't do that. I betrayed myself, my grief, my needs by defending my parents. I suffered through being the listening ear to my parents, telling myself it was an issue of being "strong enough" until finally it grew into an illness that took hold of my life and forced me to stop and take care of myself. Three years later, I am still living with the health consequences of having loved myself last. You can read more about that HERE.

That's all I've got today. Short and sweet. It's the core of what I meant for this entire blog to communicate though. I don't believe what I experienced is unavoidable. I learned these facts the hard way, and I hope it will help one of you.


  1. Thank you for this advice to parents. I am hoping that parents of adults will be required in many states to go through some training before divorcing as to how to handle it well.
    That is required of many parents with young children who are divorcing. It should be required of gray divorcees as well.

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    when you have a chance

  2. I am so thankful to have found your blog. I have also created an acod blog, because I wanted to vent and explain how this is a problem for more than just the two people in the failed marriage;

  3. Hi! I experienced my parents divorce when I had moved out, and was in my early 20s, and now I want to write about this in my masters thesis. I can not find much literature on this, its NOTHING in norwegian (i´m from Norway), and I haven't seen a lot in english either...

    Do you have any suggestions for me? I will be grateful to get a reply..

    (and maybe I ask for participation from one or two of you later...:)

    Sincerely Lene

    1. I think you are on to something. It seems to be a trend! Great, My parents are trendy now. I am actually writing a paper for a Psychology class on this topic right now! There isn't a lot of info but there are some studies such as changes in parent-child relationships, changes in rituals,

      I want to look at the attachment status I think...Like this one...Parental divorce and adult children’s attachment representations
      and marital status -by Judith A. Crowell*, Dominique Treboux and Susan Brockmeyer

      There seem to be many good dissertations but I can't access them....this person did a dissertation that seems interesting but I couldn't get a copy for my might try...
      Adult children dealing with parents' late-life divorce.
      Vettern, Rachelle Elaine, North Dakota State U., US
      Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 67(9-A), 2007. pp. 3314.

  4. You've got a lot of content here on the experiences of an adult child of divorce, but it's an ever-evolving process, so you must have more to share - please do.

    If I may, I'd like to plug my own blog on the subject:

  5. I'm also confused as to how to raise a child that is not yours by birth. Do you have the right to discipline them? Because his mother gets upset when ever I do discipline him. I also find this site helpful for the divorce.

  6. A third pitfall: be as gentle as possible when breaking the news to the kids. My wife handed me surprise divorce papers and moved out of town 3 hours later, after spending 15 minutes with our two college age kids, telling them what she was going to do.

    This will make your kids side with the left-behind parent, and probably make them feel abandoned. There's a fair chance this will also make them hate the parent who left.

    My daughter was upset that my wife wouldn't be accompanying her when she left for her freshman year in college. She wouldn't call her mother, but relented after a few days at my urging. She has spoken to her one other time in three months.

    My son commutes to college from home, and has refused to call his mother (she hasn't called him, either).

    Tell your kids jointly, in person if possible, and if they are in the chrysalis stage of being semi-adults (such as college kids are), tell them in the same way that you would tell minors. Husband and wife should present a united front, as much as it hurts, and give the kids time to partially digest the news before splitting.