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Gaspard advises saying, at the outset, "I love you and it hurts me to hear this" or "I love you and I'm sad this happened to all of us.""Daughters in particular can be socialized to be more focused on others' well-being and to strive to be connected to others for personal growth," Gaspard said."I see a lot of young women who put their own needs aside, and it rears its head later."If you're experiencing rage at one or both parents for choices that led to the divorce, such as infidelity, abuse or financial mismanagement, air your grievances to a therapist, who will help you deal with the issues in an unbiased way, Gaspard said. One good thing about being an adult: You get to choose who's in your life.But Foster found that adult children of divorcing parents "often hear more than they ever wanted to about their parents' sex and dating lives." If you don't think you'll ever be "old enough" to want to hear about your mom or dad's romantic lives, say so, Foster advised — and repeat as many times as necessary. It may be tempting to do if you are close to one or both parents.What's more, Foster said divorcing parents often turn to their adult children for the sort of ear that a friend, counselor or lawyer should provide."You can be sympathetic and loving, but it is unhealthy for you to fill any of those roles," Foster said.Here is some advice for an adult child who has just received the news: Embrace healthy boundaries.If divorcing parents of younger children do it right, they shield the kids from a lot of the nitty-gritty, as they should."You are not responsible for guiding your parents through their divorce."Don't pick sides.
A tough part of any divorce is not just the loss of the original family unit but how it redefines other relationships within the clan.
It's common to feel like you're losing chunks of your family, and you may feel that staying in touch with extended family on one side or the other is a "betrayal" to one of your parents.
Instead, in addition to feelings of bewilderment and loss, adult children find themselves in all sorts of uncomfortable situations that younger children are usually spared, like hearing about a parent's dating life, Foster says.
Others feel guilt or anger from suspicions that their parents stayed together for the kids' "benefit."But even as the so-called "gray divorce" becomes more common — Bowling Green State University professors studying later-life splits found that the divorce rate among people 50 and older more than doubled between 19 — there is not much guidance for adult kids navigating a complicated situation.
As divorce rates among adults 50 and older continue to hit an all-time high, adult children of long-time married couples can find themselves shocked when their folks announce they're splitting — and find themselves grieving with few places to turn.
People, including the adult kids themselves, often assume "parental divorce won't hurt an adult child," said Brooke Lea Foster, author of "The Way They Were: Dealing With Your Parents' Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage" (Three Rivers Press).