How to Avoid Taking Sides in Your Parents’ Gray Divorce

Gray divorce refers to divorce after age 50. Divorce at any age is an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved. It is the second-highest stressor for humans, second only to the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, parents often underestimate the impact their divorce has on their adult children. They believe that since their children are grown, their divorce will not affect them.

When divorcing parents of adult children think this way, they can inadvertently force their kids into taking sides in the divorce. Here are ways you can avoid this:

1. Ask Your Parents to Avoid Conflict and Be Amicable With Each Other

Decades of research indicate that interparental conflict correlates with children of all ages feeling caught between parents, leading to weak parent-child relationships and insecure well-being. Encourage your parents to choose a family-focused divorce process like mediation or collaborative divorce, which provides opportunities to solve conflict respectfully with dignity and minimize the emotional and financial costs that often accompany litigated divorces.

2. Tell Your Parents You Want to Have a Relationship With Both of Them

Your parents will always be co-parents, with the emphasis on “co-.” While some adult children of gray divorce say that their parents have no relationship, it is impossible for parents to have no relationship. What they mean is that their parents have a negative co-parenting relationship. Remind them that each of them is your other parent, and you want to have a relationship with both. Explain to your parents how you, your children (if you have children), relatives, and family friends can benefit from them focusing on preserving meaningful relationships and avoiding the temptation to pull you into an alliance against your other parent. As the Nobel Prize-winning French philosopher said, “Peace is the only battle worth waging.”

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