Possibly one of the hardest conversations you might have when it comes to sharing the news about your divorce will be with your kids.
Whether child or adult, this will be your hardest audience.
We too often think we only need to worry about the “little ones,” but this is truly a myth.
Often, this kind of news hits adult children just as hard, if not harder, in some cases.
10 Steps to Ease into the Conversation with Your Adult Children
1. Schedule a time to talk to your adult children on a day where there is enough time for questions and for feelings to be expressed.
Try your best to do this in person. If your adult children live far away and there isn’t an opportunity to meet face to face, then try to schedule a video chat. Whatever you do, don’t do it via text or email. This may feel easier, but your kids are likely to lose respect for you. Don’t risk it.
2. Try your best to present with a united front.
It’s far better to share the news of your split with both of you present. This allows for consistency of information and gives your adult child the opportunity to ask questions of both of you. It also can be reassuring that just because you are divorcing doesn’t mean you can’t get along or that they have to choose a side.
3. Tell all of your kids together.
Even if they are of different ages, it’s important that all children are told together, so they have the benefit of supporting each other. Questions can be addressed right away, with all present.
4. Telling your adult children may warrant a little more background or detail, but try to refrain from over-sharing.
Remember, they are still your children, and telling too much can easily backfire. However, be prepared for questions as to how this will impact them. Questions about extended family holidays, payment of college, etc., are commonly asked. Adult children often have mixed emotions as to timing. Why now, 20 years later, why not back then? Answer these questions to the best of your ability, but still, keep it simple.
5. Let them know what will be changing and what will be staying the same.
Share with them what you have decided about living circumstances and keep communication open as new changes occur. Remind them that just because you are divorcing shouldn’t change the fact that they still can believe in the family and that your doors are always open for them.
6. Avoid accusing one another of any wrongdoing, and remain civil during this conversation.
This is not the time to bicker or blame one another for what’s happening. This conversation is solely to provide information to your kids in the healthiest way possible.
7. Remind them that you love them, and emphasize that none of this is their fault.
Adult children can assume responsibility for their parents just as much as small children. They are often more likely to reflect back on their childhood to look for answers or “red flags” they might’ve missed.
8. Be prepared for them to express a variety of feelings.
Your adult children are entitled to their own feelings. They don’t necessarily have to be happy for you; they might even feel anger. Give them the space to adjust to the news and to feel their feelings.
9. Keep an open dialog outside of this meeting, so your children are free to process everything you’ve told them.
This type of news will likely need some time to sink in, so don’t expect every question to be asked and answered in one sitting.
10. Be patient and understanding.
Even if your kids are angry, trust that given time and a little space, they’ll accept and respect your decision. That’s the best you can do.