Are you among the increasing number of people over 50 who are considering divorce or have already begun the process? One of the reasons you and your spouse stayed together for as long as you did, for example, could be that you didn’t want to split up your family. Now that your kids are grown and on their own, you don’t have to worry about that, right? Wrong.
One of the biggest mistakes people who get divorced in the latter half of their lives make is underestimating how difficult it will be for their adult children. Sometimes, parental divorce can turn siblings against each other and against one or both parents in ways that a divorce wouldn’t when children are young. So what can you do to keep your divorce from destroying your family?
Take your children’s feelings seriously
Parental divorce can come as a shock to adult children. They may have believed that after all these years, you’d learned to deal with whatever problems you had and would be in it until one of you died. The last thing you should do is tell them this doesn’t affect them. It does.
Let your kids tell you how they feel, even if it’s hurtful, and ask questions. That doesn’t mean you have to answer them – at least in detail. Avoid blaming your spouse or sharing things that are private just because they’re old enough to understand. Don’t unburden yourself even to a child you’re especially close to. That’s what therapists and best friends are for.
Don’t encourage your children to take sides
Even if your children believe your spouse or their actions are to blame, don’t encourage that. It’s only to make the divorce harder for your kids if they cut one parent out of their lives. Even worse is when siblings side with different parents. This can cause a rift in the family that’s never healed. Even if you’re in your senior years, you still have birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings and a multitude of other family events ahead of you.
It’s best if you can settle your divorce amicably, without a lot of conflict over assets, property and spousal support. Then you can both feel like you’ve got the financial resources you need as you embark on the next chapter.