Wondering how to deal with your parents’ divorce in your 20s? Here is a guide to working through those emotions and moving forward with your life.
The harsh truth about love is that it doesn’t always endure. Even after years of a faithful, committed, and joyful marriage, factors may arise that threaten to destroy all the promises previously made throughout the years of marriage.
It’s difficult to maintain a relationship, and both people must play an important role in keeping the connection solid. When the honeymoon phase of a new romance ends, and the relationship becomes part of everyday life, the risks of stagnation, disinterest, development, and falling out of love become very real possibilities.
It’s estimated that 40 to 50 percent of first marriages in the United States end in divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher. While the statistics vary, it’s safe to say that going through a divorce is pretty common.
Divorce rates among adults aged 50 and older have never been higher, leaving adult children of long-married couples perplexed and shocked. Adult children of long-term married couples are particularly affected by this demographic trend known as “gray divorce.”
If your parents are getting divorced, you may be feeling a range of emotions: sadness, anger, confusion, anxiety, relief or a mix of all of these. It’s OK to feel whatever you’re feeling.
It can be difficult to deal with your parents’ divorce, especially for young adults. If you’re in your 20s and still trying to figure out your own life and your own relationships while now coping with your parents’ divorce, you may find it challenging. But there are different ways to work through the emotions and move forward.
Here are some tips on how to cope with your parents’ divorce in your 20s:
Talk to someone you trust:
Your best friends, therapist, counselor or clergy member can be a good sounding board as you work through your feelings. If you don’t feel like talking to anyone, writing in a journal can also be therapeutic.
Going to therapy can help you through the emotions you might be feeling. If you’re struggling to cope, consider seeking professional help. It can be great to confide in friends but professional guidance can be helpful during the initial shock and transition time as you move towards a new normal.
Accept that there will be changes:
Your parents’ divorce will bring changes to your family and your life. It’s important to accept that these changes are happening and that they are permanent.
Your expectations of the future might look different than your expectations did previously and that’s okay.
Try to maintain a relationship with both parents:
It’s natural to feel loyal to one parent over the other, especially if you feel that one parent is more to blame for the divorce. But it’s important to try to maintain a relationship with both parents if possible. You are still family, and but it can be challenging to have frequent contact first thing after a parental divorce. Both young children and adult children of divorce can struggle with their family dynamic after divorce.
This can be difficult, especially if your parents are fighting or if you feel caught in the middle. If you’re struggling to have a relationship with one or both of your parents, talk to a trusted friend or therapist about how to handle the situation.
It’s also important to remember that you didn’t cause your parents’ divorce and you can’t fix it.
Allow yourself to grieve:
It’s OK to mourn the loss of the family you once had. Give yourself time to grieve your parents’ divorce and don’t try to bottle up your emotions.
It can be sad to realize two people you idolized are no longer going to be together. You may see things in a different light or feel like there is a role reversal. Holidays will look different. Family traditions may change. It’s going to be harder than expected to move on. It’s a big deal, and that’s okay.
Talk to your parents:
If you’re on good terms with your parents, talk to them about what they’re going through and how it’s affecting you. If you’re not close to your parents or if the divorce is acrimonious, talking to a trusted family member or friend may be a better option.
This decision may not have been easy for them to reach. It could have been a long time coming. They might not really want to talk to their grown children about it. Divorce is a complicated topic that is difficult and emotional.
You don’t need to be there for your parents as a support system – that is not your job as their child. With that said, approaching the conversations with an open mind can lead you to get more answers than not.
Build a support system:
Surround yourself with people who will support you and be there for you during this difficult time to help you protect your mental health. These could be friends, family members, co-workers or your therapist.
Some days will be more difficult than others. Holidays might be more emotionally charged now. Family events or gatherings may be strained. You might need to take a break from social media if it’s too hard to see family photos and happy memories.
Also, you might have a close friend or two who have gone through a similar thing. Reach out to them and see if they have any more specific advice to help you through a tough time or moment.
It can be helpful to connect with people you know in real life instead of anonymous people on the internet in times of true pain.
Find positive role models:
The divorce of your parents doesn’t mean that all marriages end in divorce. Look for other couples who have healthy, supportive and long-lasting relationships. These could be friends, family members, co-workers or mentors.
Having positive role models in your life can remind you that a successful marriage is possible. It can also give you hope for the future.
Focus on your own life:
It’s important to focus on your own life and not get too caught up in your parents’ divorce. This is a time to focus on your own happiness and well-being.
Your 20s are a time to focus on your own life and future. While it’s normal to feel distracted or off course after your parents’ divorce, try not to let it derail your own plans. You might have your own marriage to think about, and a lot of people going through a parent’s divorce also have their own families to focus on. Don’t lose sight of what you need to take care of yourself.
Stay focused on yourself and let your parents know the best way they can also lend their support to you through this transition. Keep your plans and make new ones.
Take care of yourself:
Be sure to take care of yourself during this time. Eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep and take breaks when you need them.
It’s also important to find activities that make you happy and help you relax. This could be spending time with friends, listening to music, reading, going outside or doing anything else that brings you joy.
You might need to take some time away from your parents and that’s okay.
Don’t be afraid to tell your parents no and set boundaries:
Your parents might want to confide things in you but this is not going to be helpful for your healing process.
Do not let them bad-mouth each other in front of you. Regardless of the situation, both of them are still your parents. It’s okay to love both of them and have a relationship with both of them.
You do not need to take sides. Just because they are getting divorced, does not mean you have to pick one parent over the other. This is not your responsibility.
Give yourself time:
It may take months or even years to come to terms with your parents’ divorce. Don’t pressure yourself to “get over it” quickly. Allow yourself time to grieve and adjust.
Your parents have been together as a couple for your whole life. You’re not just going to get over it in a few days, weeks or even months. It could even take years for you to feel okay with the new reality.
And this might be complicated when you see one of your parents in a new relationship or have new partners. It’s rocky, uncharted waters for all of you. So make sure that you take time and space when you need it.
Reach out for support:
In addition to talking to someone you trust, there are also support groups available for people dealing with their parents’ divorce. These can be a great way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences.
Joining a support group in person or online can be wildly beneficial. Sometimes you just need someone to listen to what you’re going through without offering advice. People in these groups can lend an understanding ear to one another. And one day you can be that person for someone else too.
Create a new normal:
Once the dust has settled, you’ll need to create a new relationship with your parents after they separate ways. If they’re remarrying or dating someone new, that may mean redefining what family means to you.
It’s okay to take your time with this, because there is no time limit for having a hard time. You might not be ready to accept a new partner right away and that’s fine.
You might also need to create new traditions and find new ways to celebrate holidays. This can be a time to start fresh and create something that works for you and your family.
Remember that life goes on:
You’re undoubtedly feeling like your world is crumbling around you right now because your entire life has changed. When your parents divorce after being together since you were born, it’s easy to think that your childhood was built on a foundation of lies.
Don’t fall into the tempting trap. Your folks’ decision to divorce may have been something new they came up with together. It’s difficult to discern the circumstances as a spectator, and even though you’re their kid, you may never know why they split up. At the end of the day, life goes on, so believe it will work out regardless of the decision.
No matter how you’re feeling about your parents’ divorce, remember that you’re not alone. There are plenty of people who have gone through the same thing and come out the other side.
With time and support, you’ll be able to do the same. Tough times are temporary when you give yourself enough time to process, feel, and grow.
In Summary: How To Deal With Your Parents Divorce In Your 20s
It’s hard enough to deal with your own emotions during a divorce, but when you’re also dealing with the emotional fallout of your parents’ divorce, it can be even more difficult. While your parents’ relationship will change after your parents’ marriage ends, you will begin to see the changes in a different light once you have enough time to process and adjust.