Here, tips on how to ease their stress
Special holidays and other occasions like birthdays and weddings can be especially stressful for adult children of divorced parents. But it doesn't have to be that way.
"Children are innocent victims of divorce but they can do really well if the parents have handled things positively right from the start," says Gwen Randall-Young, an award-winning psychologist from the Edmonton area and a divorced mother of three adult children. "It's important to remember that with divorce their world is suddenly divided into two. The parents each still have their one world, but the children have Mom's world and Dad's world."
And those worlds often come loaded with each parent's expectations – including hopes of fairness and equality – all of which causes stress for the children trying to navigate them.
"While growing up it's the parents' jobs to keep things fair for the children – as in if you buy a present for one child, you buy one for the other too – but it's not the children's job when they grow up to keep things fair for Mom and Dad," says Gwen. "That's because fair is for children. Wise adults don't keep score. The inner child in the parent might say, 'oh, you're spending more time with your Dad than with me,' but that's not a wise adult response and it creates so much stress for the child. "
Here are Gwen's top tips for divorced parents who want their adult children to actually be able to enjoy holidays and special occasions:
1) Parents, adjust your plans to fit the kids' plans, not the other way around. "It's the parents who need to be adaptable. And don't expect them to always be with you on the actual day – be it Christmas, Easter or birthdays." As Gwen points out, if your adult kids are married and their spouses also have divorced parents, there can be four or more parents to accommodate at big events. "Celebrate together when it can work for everybody. Be flexible."
2) Don't ever pull a guilt trip. "Don't say anything if they don't put you first or if they spend more time with the other parent. Just enjoy them and be positive when they are with you," Gwen advises. "That will also make them want to spend more time with you. If you're pouty, they won't want to be around that."
3) When adult kids get married: "Parents need to be gracious and get along throughout the planning stage and the actual day," says Gwen. "Remember, it's about the bride and the groom. Let the couple create the day they want, not what you want."
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