Florida Women's Law Group
Divorcing With College ChildrenAuthor: FWLG
Date: Jan 18 2021
Divorcing with College Children
It is not uncommon for unhappy couples to wait until their children have turned 18 to divorce. The thought being that the divorce will be easier for their kids at this age. Parents are often surprised by the strong reaction their young adult children have to the news of their parents divorcing. The truth of the matter is they struggle with many of the same issues as younger children when faced with a new family dynamic.
A New Definition of Home
College is a new chapter for these young adults, and they are learning about independence and being away from home for the first time. While they may relish the new freedoms they still have the comfort of home to come to for breaks and it provides a sense of security. When parents divorce while they are in college this completely changes what home means and where to go when the semester ends. Now there are two homes instead of one and in some cases, the family home may have been sold. For younger kids, who they live with is decided in the custody agreement, but this is not the same for an adult child. They must decide on their own to spend time with each parent and this leads to feelings of stress and anxiety as they must make uncomfortable choices.
Feelings of Guilt and Sadness
Younger children of divorce often feel guilt that it is their fault, college kids have guilt that they could have prevented it. Whether they saw warning signs or not that the marriage was in trouble they may feel that if only they were home, they could have fixed it or help their parents save the relationship. This will be a major life change for them, and it is not uncommon for them to feel sad and depressed. They have more memories of the family together for holidays, vacations and special family traditions. Learning that this will no longer be the same is unsettling and takes time for adjustment.
In divorces with young children parents try to shield them from the ugliness of divorce. For college-aged children the line between parent and child can often become blurred. These kids can oftentimes find themselves caught in the middle as their parents treat them like adult friends instead of children. Be conscious of not over-sharing details of the divorce, bad-mouthing the other parent or using your child as your confidant. This causes extra stress and anxiety for them as they feel like they have to emotionally support one parent while also being loyal to the other. Get a therapist or talk to a friend about the details of the divorce, not your adult children. You are divorcing your spouse, but it is still their parent and they should not be forced to choose sides especially when they are already going through so much.
Cynicism in Relationships
As these young adults are entering into romantic relationships of their own they may become cynical of the idea of successful relationships. Kids can look at their parent’s marriage as idyllic and look back at their childhoods with fondness. News of their parents’ divorce can shake up everything they thought of what a successful long-term relationship looks like. Even if they knew there were problems it is very unsettling for them to see their middle-aged parents divorce.
College-aged children are going through a lot of new experiences and changes in their lives. Be aware that a divorce will be upsetting to them and be there to talk to them and listen as they process this major change in their life. Do not add to their stress by making them feel as if they have to choose sides or be your emotional support. You and your ex are still their parents and they need healthy relationships with both of you.
Even for adults these changes can be terrifying. Just as a child has their parents to help them, our attorneys are here to help you. If you have any questions about your divorce, call our office to speak to one of our team members today.