How does gray divorce impact college-aged children?

Gray divorce among 50 or older couples has become increasingly prevalent since the 90s. Seniors are discovering a renewed sense of self and purpose outside of their marriage. As such, their adult children now attending college experience the significant impact of their late-life split.

Unfortunately, the independence and maturity college-aged children may have developed through the years do not make them immune to the unique struggles caused by divorce. Thus, recognizing these challenges can be the first step to help families get through the process and heal together.

Different studies show how divorce affects college students

Being a college student diversifies adult children’s priorities, which now entail higher education and increased social interactions.

In effect, the parent-child relationship also evolves. While adult children may be less dependent physically and cognitively, they often still turn to their parents for emotional and financial support.

Considering family circumstances vary, an investigation revealed the following effects of divorce on university students:

  • Mixed reactions: Around half of them knew the divorce was coming. Those who did not see it coming were not surprised. Most felt their parents only stayed in the marriage for their sake.
  • Mixed associations: Several relationships with mothers grew more intimate, while connections with fathers became strained.
  • Mixed difficulties: Challenges with spending the holidays and forming their own romantic relations became apparent.

Another study reported how children’s educational attainment can suffer due to various factors. For example, the family’s income becomes divided. If a parent is not earning as much as the other, the adult child typically fails to attend or complete college. Further, the sudden shifts in family dynamics can cause a decline in the adult child’s psychosocial skills or overall emotional well-being.

Different ways to help college-aged children cope

Parents must not minimize the impact of the divorce on their collegiate children by assuming that their kids should be more equipped to manage things now. Instead, parents must openly communicate and guide their children in navigating extreme feelings. Further, with the child’s knowledge, advising the school about the family situation may be wise. Professors or the guidance counselor can monitor the child’s performance and note unusual behaviors. Doing so expands the support system, which can also include a Pennsylvania legal advocate who can help ease tensions and protect the family’s future.


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