The Hard Stuff: What Do You Say When A Friend's Parents Divorce?

Words by Shelly Brown
Illustrations by Jamison Harper


No matter what age a person is, it’s difficult when parents divorce. It’s easily assumed that as adults, if your parents divorce, it won’t be as difficult. How can we be there for people we love when the processing begins? When their world is rocked and they may begin to question their entire childhood? What happens to their own marriages when they watch their example crumble?

How can we best support the people we love when they are going through this?

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What to do:

With the topic of divorce, take a less-is-more approach. They need space to process how they feel and not be told how they should feel.

Even though they may be adults, this will surely trigger their inner child. Remind them that this is not about them and that it is not their fault.

Listen.
Listen.
Listen.

Let them ramble. Let them get angry or be sad. Hold a safe space for wherever they are.

Ask questions:

“How do you feel?”
The family they knew is going to be a lot different now. While adult children may be busy trying to take care of mom’s and dad’s feelings, they need to tune into how they feel as well.

“Can I take something off your plate?”
With our modern lifestyles, it is easy to stay busy and ignore what may be going on inside. There is nothing you can do to change the situation, so check in and see if you can lighten their load so they have some time to process.

What not to do:

Don’t blame.

Even if an adult child is angry at one or both parents, listen but don’t jump on board. They are still talking about their parents. While they need to be allowed to be angry, they don’t need someone else to speak negatively of mom or dad.

Don’t say things like, “Everything happens for a reason.”

They know this. They want mom and dad to be happy, but also be allowed to process in the now, not be forced into the future.

Don’t compare.

Every situation is different. During the crisis, focus on their personal situation and don’t bring someone’s else into it.