Telling your children you're getting a divorce is never an easy conversation- no matter how old they are. While the challenges that adult children of divorce face may be different than younger children, the ways that parents can help their kids adjust is surprisingly similar. If you are a divorcing parent, here are some things to consider when it comes to discussing your divorce with your adult children.
No matter how old they are, children are still losing their current and familiar family dynamic, so it's important to plan out the conversation of divorce ahead of time with your ex-spouse. Also plan to have the discussion with your children and ex-spouse in person. When you are scheduling the time to talk, tell them you have something important to discuss with them. If they ask you what you want to talk about, tell them you prefer to discuss it in person when you are all together.
Just like with younger children, when having this discussion you both need to let your kids know that you love them, and that they are not to blame. Consider having a script available to help guide your conversation in advance. This conversation will be life changing for your children, so be sure to be clear and intentional with your words and write down answers to questions you think they may ask to keep from giving flustered and emotional responses.
Remember that your children will likely be in emotional shock after you tell them your your and your spouse are ending your marriage. They will not be able to absorb everything you say the first time and may need you to repeat your words multiple times. Having a script available will allow you to revisit your words to your children and convey a clear message.
Expect the Unexpected
Your children may have a wide range of emotions when it comes to the news of your divorce. Depending on your relationship with your ex-spouse, the news may come as expected and a relief or it could complete shock and blindside them. Be prepared to accept whatever emotion they feel the need to express without getting defensive or angry yourself. Remind them that, even though they may be an adult, you are still their parent. You did, and will continue to do, what you believe is best for them, and for you.
Acknowledge The Impact Your Divorce Will Have
Parents of adult children may think that their divorce will not have as much of an impact due to the age of their children. However, the fact remains the same that divorce impacts the children no matter their age. While young children may have guilt from believing they are the cause of the divorce, their older counterparts may have guilt about believing their parents stayed in an unhappy marriage for their sake. Although they have more coping and life skills than young kids, adult children will still feel destabilized by your divorce and will go through the same grief process.
Address Any Changes
Once you tell your adult children about your divorce, there will be lots of questions about how this life-changing event in your life will also change aspects of their own. From holidays to finances, your adult children understand that nothing will be the same once your divorce is finalized. Although every change does not have to be addressed at once, make sure you and your children are on the same page about what changes, such as bills, holiday gatherings and tuition, will impact them directly as you continue through your divorce.
Don't Make Your Children Pick Sides
Like young children, adult children can also be alienated from their parent. While talking through your divorce with your adult children, avoid tell your them negative aspects of your marriage to their other parent. They will end up either hating that parent, you, or both of you.
Tell your children that they will not be expected to pick sides and that you respect their decisions when it comes to seeing you. Don't make an already difficult situation more stressful on your adult children when it comes to deciding who to see for the holidays.
Remember, no matter how old your children are, you are still their parent. It is your job to put their feelings above yours and provide them with the support they need. Acknowledge that you realize the announcement is a shock and that their feelings, no matter what they may be, are valid and respected. Make sure you acknowledge that you know this will be painful for them and it will change their lives, but it will not change your love for them.
Divorcing as a parent, no matter the age of your children, is never an easy process to go through. C. Y. Lee Legal Group, PLLC is here to help you. Click here to set up an appointment, or call (832) 838-1743.