Dealing with grown children and divorce
So you’ve raised your kids and now down the road you and your spouse have decided to divorce. While explaining this to younger children has its’ challenges, so it goes with explaining to adult children. It’s one adjustment when your child is 4 or 5 and you decide to get divorced but it is also another whole adjustment for an 18 or 23 yr. old. After all, you have been their ‘together’ parents their whole childhood and your separating now, as they are just becoming adults themselves, can really rock their world!
So how do you break this kind of news? Well, the ideal way of course, is in person. Over the phone or emails are just not appropriate even if they live far away. If at all possible, share the news with all the siblings together in person at the same time. If distance is an issue, and it’s not possible for all to be in the same place at the same time, perhaps a skype set-up where everyone can be involved would be the best option. Make sure that both parents are sharing the news. It can send mixed messages if only one parent is breaking the news to them.
Below are some guidelines for a healthy dialog:
- Allow them to have the reaction that they need to have, even if you don’t agree with it.
- Make sure to not fall into the ‘blame game’, keep focused to the issue at hand.
- Do not share intimate details of your marriage and or failures, they are your children, not your friends or your therapist.
- Make sure that they understand, even as adults, that they are in no way responsible, take ownership of your marriage.
- Let them know how this will affect their lives and allow them to ask questions.
- Regarding the above, don’t be afraid to not have all the answers. No one plans on divorce; each family will have to find their way through this process.
- They are adults now and they have the option of having you in or out of their lives. You need to be prepared to accept the fact that they may be hurt and angry and walk away for a while to process this change.
- If there happens to be another person that either parent is currently in a new relationship with, keep in mind that they may choose to not include this new person in their lives. Just because you have chosen to have this new person in your life, they are not obligated as your child to just accept this person into theirs. As the parent, you will have to work out those relationships.
- If in this divorce process the family relationships start to disintegrate, seek professional help. It is not worth losing your relationship with your children because of pride. Do whatever you need to do to salvage these relationships.
- Most importantly, continually reassure them that you are and always will be their parents regardless of being together or divorced. The end of a marriage does not dissolve the parental relationship. Handled correctly, it could strengthen it.
Whatever the outcome, recognize that you are all adults now and each one will have to move through the process in their own coping capacities. Each child will need different amounts of time to ‘come around’ to acceptance depending on their understanding and maturity level. They are no longer your ‘kids’ and will have to go this process on their own. The best thing that you can do to help them through this journey is to be open and honest and continue to be the loving parental figure that you have always been.
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