Divorce and Adult Children: Does Co-Parenting Ever End?

Mother and adult daughter embrace outside on a fall day

As a divorced parent who has raised their children in separate households for many years, waiting for the day when your kids finally become adults may hold certain connotations to you. Watching them head to college, move to new homes, and eventually even have families of their own can be both bittersweet and a massive sigh of relief all at once. This journey will be full of mixed emotions and surprises, but as a parent, you'll be there for your young adults every step of the day.

More than the mixed feelings you have as you watch your children grow into adults, you may also be waiting for what changes may come regarding your co-parenting situation. While you're likely ready to bid farewell to things like child support payments and shared parenting schedules, you may soon realise that other aspects of co-parenting persist well into your child's adulthood. As a divorced parent with adult children, here are a few essential points to consider.

Divorce Conflict May Still Impact Your Adult Children

No matter how old your children were when you divorced, the memories of going through it are difficult ones for many to carry with them throughout life. If the conflict persists to this day, your adult children are likely to feel that burden as well.

Recognise that no matter how old your kids are, the conflict going on between you and their other parent can have a significant impact on their well-being. Work to quell the conflict as best you can, even now that you may not be interacting as often as you once had.

Don't Pull Them Into It

As a parent of adult children, you probably have noticed that your relationship with them has changed in certain ways. They are adults now and, as such, you probably speak with them differently and do other things with them than you did when they were young.

That said, your adult children are still your children, not your therapist. Don't pull your adult children into your conflict by tasking them with shouldering the burden of the emotions you're still experiencing from your divorce. They should also not be made to take sides with you or their other parent. If your adult children want both of you in their lives, don't stand in their way of having that.

Be There For The Big Moments

Even if you and your co-parent have decided to part ways and reduced your interactions to a minimum, it's likely to be very important to your adult children that both of you can be there for their big moments like graduations, weddings, and even the arrival of grandkids.

Do your best to attend these events, and while there, remember who they are for. Don't let conflict get in the way of the celebration. Keep the focus on what's happening there instead of engaging in a dispute with the other parent of your adult children.

Don't Let Jealousy Get In Your Way

Once your parenting schedule is no longer in use and your adult children choose where they spend their time, you may experience certain feelings of anxiety over where your kids spend their time. Without a set structure of rules that dictate how often your children are with each of you, they will make their own decisions.

Adult children will spend their time where they want to spend it, and that's okay. When your children are with you, make it as enjoyable for you and them as possible. They're probably spending less time with both of you now that they have their own adult lives to focus on, so try and make the time you spend together really count.

Co-parenting after divorce may not end entirely once your children become adults, though it will evolve significantly. You may have far fewer interactions with your co-parent than you once did, but when you must come together for your children, keep your children and their best interests at heart.