4 Ways Divorce Can Impact Your Kids as Adults

It’s a known truth these days that close to 50% of marriages end in divorce; a common phenomenon that impacts many kids and young adults. As a therapist who specializes in work with young adults and women’s issues, I’ve witnessed firsthand, the impacts divorce can have in adulthood. Sure, it’s common to see kids and teens in my practice to help them cope with the instability and stress divorce brings in the moment, but I’ve come to find that the impact of divorce is much more longstanding and manifests in many ways long after; as kids have become adults and started families of their own.

Here are 4 common ways that kids of divorce can struggle in adulthood:

  1. Control

Kids who witness the unpredictability and emotional chaos of divorce seek stability and control. As adults, the need for control can manifest in unhealthy ways such as the need to control others. Extreme discomfort or anxiety occurs when the inevitable happens- we cannot control others and everything around us.

Likely, the need for control can arise from the fear of failure, something which can be created from witnessing failure of a marriage. In efforts to alleviate this fear, adults overcompensate by having rigid expectations for themselves and others around them. This often leads to disappointment, low self-worth and unrealistic expectations for relationships.

  1. Interpersonal Relationships

 As adults, kids who experienced divorce may have trouble with emotional intimacy and have difficulty expressing emotions. Vulnerability can be a scary concept to someone who has witnessed betrayal and the breakdown of trust that divorce can sometimes cause.

  1. Self-Esteem

Kids who get dragged in the middle of their parent’s divorce are more likely to internalize the blame or insults parents trade during divorce. This can have a detrimental impact on self-esteem as an adult.

As well, self-blame can create feelings of guilt and a low sense of self-worth in adults who developed the misconception that divorce was their fault, as kids.

  1. Skewed Expectations of Marriage

Adult children of divorce can develop skewed world views about relationships and marriage. Having  an expectation of “perfection” in intimate relationships (one without conflict) can lead to short-lived and unstable relationships.  These adults will often be disappointed and let down when these unrealistic expectations are unmet by their partner.

It’s important to remember that the ways each individual experiences a loss such as divorce is different, and that generally, kids are extremely resilient. With this said, if you or someone you know are struggling with any of these issues, it might be beneficial to explore them further with a therapist. Therapy can help you gain insight as to how your past has shaped you in the present and to empower you to shift your life in a healthier direction.

Let’s Talk About Those Boundaries…

FullSizeRender (4)

I have learned that in order to have a healthy and positive self-image, we need to learn how to set personal boundaries. This way, we will be able to tell not only ourselves but others that we have self-respect and self-worth, and will not allow other people to define who we are or what our values are. Being able to have clear personal boundaries is the key to ensure mutually respectful and caring relationships. They allow us to separate ourselves from others, define who we are and allow us to think for ourselves. They help us preserve our integrity and most importantly make us take responsibility for who we are and allow us to execute some aspects of control in our lives.

If you at some point felt uncomfortable by how others were treating you, it may be time to re-examine your boundaries and set new ones. If you think about it, having weaker boundaries will not only make you feel taken for granted, but also may make you feel more vulnerable. Having poor boundaries makes us derive our sense of self from others. No one wants to feel less than, so let’s talk about how to work on resetting your boundaries.

There are many kinds of boundaries, but the main ones I want to mention are: physical, emotional, mental and/or intellectual, energetic, and spiritual.

Physical boundaries define how much space you want between others and you. They help us shape our tolerance for all sorts of touch and affection with others.

Emotional boundaries make us question how we would like others to speak to us and if we can allow others to experience their hurt emotions without having the need to save them. Are we able to allow ourselves to feel sad, angry, hurt or fearful without putting the blame on others?

Mental and/or intellectual boundaries dictate us to respect other people’s beliefs, ideas and preferences even though we may not agree with them. This type of boundary may be challenging if we think we know “best” about something. Remember that your perception may not be someone else’s reality!

Energetic boundaries define what kind of people you want to surround yourself with and what kind of people you want to stay away due to their toxicity. They make us question what sort of situations do you often find yourself in; are they calm, loving and peaceful or chaotic, messy or abusive?

Spiritual boundaries allow us to question our own morale and challenge us to think if we can allow others to have chosen their spiritual life without feeling the need to convince them that they are wrong. They make us think if we can honor our own spiritual or lack of spiritual beliefs and not have to explain or justify ourselves to others.

Now that you have had a chance to examine your boundaries, you may think to yourself: how do I begin to establish healthy personal boundaries in some of the above categories? Here are some of the points I like to focus on when examining boundaries.

  1. One of the most important things is knowing that you not only have the right to have healthy personal boundaries, but you must also take responsibility for how you allow other people to treat you.
  2. Learn how to say “no”. We like to think of ourselves as being nice and wanting to help others and that is okay from time to time. However, if you find yourself trying to accommodate everyone and have been finding yourself being placed at a disadvantage because you have been saying “yes” too many times, you may want to re-examine those situations. I encourage you to start prioritizing your needs and not please others at your own expense.
  3. Trust and believe in yourself. Not only do you know yourself best but you also know what your needs and wants are. With that being said, do not let others make all the decisions for you. Allow yourself to respect your strengths, values, and abilities.
  4. Examine your behaviors and actions and identify those that you find unacceptable. When you feel that your boundaries have been violated, let the other person know that they have crossed the line and made you feel a certain way.

When we experience healthy personal boundaries, not only are we more in touch with ourselves but we also experience increased trust and stability in our relationships. We are able to cope with problems more effectively and can communicate better with others. Healthy personal boundaries help us have a higher self-esteem and self-worth. This means that you can be yourself to a greater extent! It is never too late to work on start working on them!

All my best,

 

Aneta