5 Tips For Talking To Adult Children About Your Divorce

tips for talking to adult children about your divorce

Divorce and Transitions: Mardi Winder-Adams

One of the reasons couples stay together is for the sake of the children. They opt to wait until the kids leave home to move forward.

They believe that once kids are old enough to head out of the house to college, or off to a career, they are also old enough to handle the emotional impact of Mom and Dad’s divorce. However, this is not always the case. As a matter of fact, many women are caught off guard by the response they receive from adult children when bringing up the subject of separation and divorce. In a potentially no-win situation, you may need some tips for talking to adult children about your divorce.

In the words of one of my clients, “My husband was fine with the idea of divorce. And we both agreed it was the best way to maintain our relationship moving forward. Our kids, both in their late twenties and married, were a completely different story. They were outwardly hostile to me, blaming me for living a lie throughout their childhood years and insisting that the best thing for us both was to work it out and stay together.”

“That adage of anticipating the best but planning for the worst response definitely applies to these conversations.”

How To Plan For The Conversation:

If you are considering a separation or divorce, talking to your adult children in a proactive, compassionate, and open way is the best option. That adage of anticipating the best but planning for the worst response definitely applies to these conversations. 

5 Tips To Prepare You To Deliver The Divorce News To Your Adult Children:

To help you structure these conversations, here are a few practical tips and preparation strategies. 

1.Do it together.

Having both partners present a unified and consistent message about the divorce is beneficial. When kids (of any age) hear the information from both parents in the same room or on the same call, there is less risk of blaming the messenger for the message. It is also a wise choice to have all the kids informed at once to ensure consistency in the information and delivery of the message. 

2. In-person is better.

Ideally, meeting together as a family is always the best strategy. Life doesn’t always make this easy, so a video conferencing or phone conversation with everyone on the call is the second-best option. It is wise to avoid sharing this information in an email, letter, text, or any form of written communication. These methods have no option to clarify or to support the children.

“Adult children do not need to hear what is “wrong” with one or both of their parents.”

3. Plan your message and avoid the details.

Talk to your spouse in advance and work together to craft a message you both feel comfortable sharing with the children. It is critical to avoid going into details and the reasons for the end of the relationship. Adult children do not need to hear what is “wrong” with one or both of their parents. Blaming or shaming the other parent or having the blame and shame directed at you only creates more conflict. And hurt at this difficult time. 

4. Commit to family.

it is reassuring for adult children to know their parents, even when going through a divorce or separation, are committed to maintaining the sense of family. Be open to discussing what will stay the same, including how you see your continuing support and interaction in the lives of your children and grandchildren. 

5. Anticipate resistance.

Do not expect your children, even though they are adults, to accept your decision to separate or divorce without resistance. In planning for the discussion, think about the objections and resistance you are likely to encounter and plan a neutral, respectful, yet clear message such as:

  • We understand this is difficult for you to hear. However, we both believe this is in our best interest and want to maintain a healthy, positive relationship throughout the process. 
  • We appreciate your concern. We have discussed our options and have a plan to ensure each of us has what we need moving forward. We are committed to working through this process without involving the rest of the family. 
  • We are always your parents. We love you and we want the best for our children (and grandchildren). Our relationship, as a couple, has changed over time, and separation/divorce is the next step. We are working together to move through this process and enter the next stage of our lives. 

Reassurance Despite Separation Or Divorce:

Finally, it is essential to let your children know that this process will impact the family and that you are there for them. Reassuring adult children they are loved and cared for by both parents is always the most meaningful takeaway from these conversations. These tips for talking to adult children about your divorce should help ease the process and help our kids better accept.

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Mardi Winder-Adams

About the Author:

Mardi Winder-Adams is an Executive and Leadership Coach, Certified Divorce Transition Coach, and a Credentialed Distinguished Mediator in Texas. She has experienced her own divorce, moved to a new country and started her own business, and worked through the challenges of being a caregiver and managing the loss of a spouse.

Handling life transitions and pivots is her specialty! In her professional role as a divorce coach, Mardi has helped hundreds of women before, during, and after divorce to reduce the emotional and financial costs of the process. She is the founder of Positive Communication Systems, LLC.