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How Adult Children React to a Parent's Divorce & Remarriage

by Ashlea Campbell, studioD

When divorcing and remarrying later in life, individuals need to consider and prepare for the reactions of their grown children. Parents may struggle to accurately account for the wide range of responses from adult children. Similar to kids, adult children may wrestle with rejection, emotional distress, self-esteem issues and anger.


Prior to your divorce or remarriage, your child may have been used to having access to you at all times. In fact, your child may have taken for granted the time you had available to support him. The change in your relationship status may signal a change in the relationship, leaving your child feeling abandoned, neglected and rejected. When you divorce, your child may feel abandoned by the family and life he once knew. When your remarry, your adult children quickly assess how having a stepparent will impact not only the child’s relationship with the natural parent, but also how it will impact traditions and holidays, notes psychologist Susan Hickman.

Emotional Distress

Feeling rejected could cause your child to feel stressed. In addition to her normal responsibilities, your child now has to navigate this evolving family. While your child is an adult, and may not reside under the same roof as you and your new spouse, a marriage will impact the time you spend with that child. Minimize distress by reassuring your child that you’ll always be there for her. Schedule activities alone with your child, but also schedule activities that include your new or potential spouse; giving your child an opportunity to get to know your partner will help put her at ease. Be understanding and flexible with your child's time, as she now may have three households around which to schedule important events and holidays -- her own, yours and your former spouse's.


Feelings of rejection and experiencing emotional distress can cause your child’s self-esteem to drop. He may report feeling unworthy because of the perceived lack of support. Surprisingly, there is some truth to the lack of support, as children -- adult and young -- in stepfamilies typically receive less support financially and emotionally than those in “first” families, reports author Susan D. Stewart, in "Brave New Stepfamilies." As a result, these children are less likely to consider remarried parents as sources of support.


All of these issues combined could cause your child to feel anger. Your child may direct the anger specifically toward you, your new spouse, your former spouse, new step-siblings and in-laws. If your child experiences anger, suggest counseling and offer to attend family counseling together. While your child may want to focus on the negative aspects of the new family dynamic, steer the conversations towards examining the positive contributions each family member makes.

About the Author

Ashlea Campbell writes about families, relationships and health-related issues. In addition to writing professionally, she teaches writing courses at Collin College in Plano, Texas. She holds a Masters degree in English education from the University of Kansas.

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