We hear a lot about how young children are affected by their parents’ divorce, but what about when the breakup occurs later in life?
Psychologists say that being older doesn’t make it easier for your parents to divorce, and in fact it can be more difficult due to the loss of well-established routines: birthdays, Christmases, and family traditions you’ve lived through your entire life. life.
As young adults, we can expect our parents to be a stable and reliable presence, as we are the ones who make mistakes and test different identities. When they start to transform, it can be hard to understand.
“A lot of young people who go through this are in college,” says Michelle Mitchell, a clinical psychologist based in Brisbane.
“I have the impression that I must be a rock and a mediator”
We asked the triple j line of text for stories of parents divorcing or separating when you’re an adult, and we got a huge response:
“My parents are going through a separation, I’m 27 and the oldest, and I feel like I have to be a rock and a mediator. My dad fell in love with my mom’s best friend. feel like I’m not crying and knowing what support I should be looking for. “
“The hardest part of being an adult when your parents are divorcing – being the next of kin and feeling responsible for taking care of them both.”
“My parents separated when I was 18 in my freshman year of college. I found out he was having an affair. I had to figure out how to tell mom after doing a lot of detective work for make sure it was true. I practically became my mom’s mental health assistant. “
“I’m 23 and my parents separated almost a year ago and now my mom is a lesbian and it’s still a shock to me and my sister to get used to it.”
“My girlfriend’s parents (at the time) divorced when she was 27. Her father quickly returned to his home country, leaving his non-English speaking ex-wife unemployed and without a mortgage. completely broke up my ex which, as a ripple effect, ruined our relationship. We broke up 2-3 months later. “
There were also many other texts that said their parents had fought during their marriage and how they wished they had divorced earlier.
It’s not about whether divorce is a good thing or a bad thing – it all depends on the circumstances of the marriage. But anyway, it’s going to bring about a drastic change.
Kerry was in her senior year of school when she noticed her parents were arguing more than they ever had been. Then, weeks after her last exam, as Kerry was about to turn 18 and embrace her newfound freedom, they told her they were breaking up.
Kerry’s mother even confided that they waited until she finished school before they went their separate ways: “Part of me thinks that if they had split up sooner they could have saved a friendship or co-parenting or something like that, ”Kerry said. To hack.
“Whereas now they can’t even be in the same room anymore.”
Instead of enjoying the end of school and the start of her adult life, Kerry ended up being the go-between in her parents’ divorce. She feels that the whole experience has made her doubt marriage and oppose any kind of conflict.
“I kind of had to be the mediator because it was a lousy place,” she said.
“You are old enough to get into serious business”
Ray Medhora, a Sydney-based family counselor, said To hack Adults whose parents separate are generally expected to recover and often not receive enough support.
“Society gives children more permissions to behave according to their feelings and have a greater reaction to separation from their parents,” he said.
“The hardest thing we do as human beings is to invalidate our own feelings.”
Growing up and having your own relationships can help you understand the challenges your parents face in their marriage. But understanding why they broke up is not the same as dealing with grief.
Claudia was 19 when her parents divorced: “I was mature enough to understand why they broke up,” she said. “I think everyone thought I was mature enough to be able to handle it, so no one checked me out – it was really heartbreaking.”
Michelle Mitchell said To hack that many young people she sees at work tell her they are surprised at how upset they are about their parents’ divorce.
“They think I should be old enough to handle this,” Michelle said.
She said parents often tend to rely on their adult children for support, which can make the experience for young adults even more difficult. You can be protective of a parent, especially if they have been cheated or disadvantaged in some way.
“I find a lot of young adults have a strong moral compass,” she said.
“It’s really hard when you’re older because you’re old enough to get involved with the serious stuff and the details of it all.”
The best advice, Michelle said, is to seek support from someone outside the family unit. It could be a counselor, psychologist, or a good friend.
“Someone who is impartial with whom you can really discuss things,” she said.
And it’s important to remember that it can work well: At 17, Maddi moved to the Caribbean with his mother, who had broken up with her partner.
They lived three meters from the beach and next to a reggae bar.
“It was like being on vacation all the time,” Maddi said.
Over a decade later, her mother found a new partner and still lives there: “It got all of us, our whole family I guess, into a left turn.”
“This is a place where I have never seen my life unfold.”