How to cope with your parents' divorce - even if you're an adult, according to experts

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Kelsie Sandoval
·3 min read
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Gates children
Yana Paskova / Stringer/Getty Images
  • Experts say a parents' divorce is challenging, even if you're an adult.

  • Even if you're a mature adult, your parents' marriage can feel like a security blanket.

  • Talk to your divorced parents about your feelings to avoid lasting emotional damage.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Philanthropists, public health advocates, and businesspeople Bill and Melinda Gates announced Monday that they are splitting up after 27 years of marriage.

Their three children are adults - Phoebe, 18, Rory, 21, and Jeniffer, 25 - but that doesn't mean their parents' divorce won't be challenging, experts say.

People may assume that divorced parents' adult kids are better able to handle a split than young kids, but Rachel Sussman, a relationships therapist in New York City, said a parents' divorce after a long-term marriage, no matter what age, is upsetting and challenging.

"I think there's an element of shock and surprise for kids of any age," Sussman told Insider.

Although a parents' divorce may be painful, Sussman said there are steps you can take to navigate your way through the experience.

Even if you're a mature adult, a parental divorce is shocking

Sussman said it's OK for us all to admit to ourselves that, even as mature adults, the world is a scary, hard place, and sometimes you may rely on your family unit - and your parents' marriage - for a sense of security.

In adulthood, we get jobs, pay bills, and create our own schedules, but when you're with your parents, you can revert back to being a child; being looked-after.

"There's a dynamic with even adults that when they're with their parents, they can feel a little childlike and they want to be cared for by their parents," Sussman said.

But a parental divorce can leave you feeling unstable.

"It feels like that last security blanket is being ripped out from under them," Sussman said.

Ways to cope when your parents get a divorce

It is shocking, but there are ways to recover and adapt, according to Sussman.

Sussman said clients she sees in her practice go through different stages of emotions: shock, sadness, anger, and acceptance. She advises people to articulate these feelings to their parents in the moment, to avoid lasting emotional damage.

Sussman also recommended going to a therapist who will provide an outlet to discuss your feelings, and creating a support system of friends.

A parental divorce can also lead to resiliency. If your parents had an amicable divorce and left the marriage in a happier, better place, Sussman said it may help you to navigate your own relationships and potential breakups in the future.

If you're parents had a nasty divorce, Sussman said, that doesn't mean it has to be a weight you will carry for the rest of your life.

"Maybe aspects of your life are changing, but that doesn't mean you can't still have a great life and a great relationship with both parents."

Read the original article on Insider