Telling your kids you’re getting divorced is never easy — even when they’re adults.
Adult children, including those who are married themselves, can experience every bit the same emotional reaction to news of their parents’ divorce as a much younger child might. Parental divorce
can produce feelings of abandonment, sadness, anger, and be a trigger for adult children to question what was real in their childhood, even if your marital problems didn’t exist at the time.
Parents of younger children are advised to spend time planning the ideal way to talk about divorce with their children — but this same advice goes for divorcing parents of adult children. Preparing to break the news about your divorce? Here are some tips for how to discuss divorce with your adult children in a way that can help you all make a more positive adjustment.
Create a “script” with your spouse ahead of time.
Rehearse ahead of time, and have a “script” to follow. If your kids live far away, schedule a conference call, Skype or FaceTime call. Try to be a united front. Don’t lapse into blame or contradict the other. Your adult children need to hear the same basic message as young ones: that the divorce is not their fault, and that you will always love them.
Prepare to talk about sensitive topics.
Adult kids may have more knowledge of the problems in your marriage than young children. They may have grown up around long-term conflict or estrangement, or they may have acted as parental confidantes. If infidelity, financial mismanagement, addiction, or abuse is the root cause of your divorce, they may be know some of these details and ask more questions or point fingers. You don’t want to lie to your kids and pretend certain things haven’t happened, but you still don’t want to give any more details than necessary. You also don’t want to get stuck in blame or victimization.
Acknowledge that the divorce impacts them.
Although they have more coping and life skills than young kids, adult children will still feel destabilized by your divorce and will go through a grief process. They may need repeated conversations with you to make sense of what happened. If they’re truly struggling, therapy could help. Offer to pay for it if you’re able.
Explain how the divorce will affect them financially.
Your kids need to know what impact your divorce will have on their own finances. Will you be able to continue paying college tuition? Supplementing young adult or young family lifestyles? What will happen to their inheritance?
Address holiday plans.
After a lifetime of celebrating holidays in the family home, splitting time between two households may be emotionally jarring for your kids. Acknowledge the loss of tradition and how you plan to schedule holiday visits going forward.
Anticipate varied reactions.
Whether your children expect the news or feel blindsided, they will need time to process this major change in their life narrative. Assure them their feelings are normal and you are available to help them work through their feelings.
Assure them you’re going to be okay.
Adult kids may worry about the impact of the divorce on your mental and physical health. Tell them how you’re handling your self-care and assure them that you have a support network to lean on so they don’t feel responsible for you. Adjusting to this huge change in their life narrative is hard enough without tending to your emotional needs.
When you divorce and are a parent, safeguarding your children is your top priority. We understand. To discuss your concerns and get answers to your questions, please contact us to set up your initial consultation with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys.