Telling your children you’re getting divorced is never easy no matter their age. It’s not a matter of being easier or more difficult than telling young children, it’s simply that the issues, the concerns and the reactions are different.
My current guest, Candi has three adult children who were in their late twenties/early thirties at the time of the divorce. They each reacted differently. Here’s Candi:
Well, the youngest one, she was here locally. My other two live out-of-state. She said, “It’s about time.” She wondered what took me so long.
The oldest and the youngest are girls and my son is in the middle. My son just was like, “Mom, whatever makes you happy, that’s fine.” He is so busy. He’s in the military. He’s in the reserve. He’s in the guard. He also has a full-time job. He’s got two very young children and he is constantly traveling. He’s really just so busy that—I hate to put it that he doesn’t have time for his parents, but we’re not really on his plate. His plate is full.
My older daughter, she never really said too much about it. She lives up in New York, we’re in Tennessee. I think that she’s okay with it. I really do. But she too has young children, a lot going on in her life. I think it’s way different for adult children than it is for teenagers or little kids.
Only the youngest one knows how long I struggled with this. I don’t think the other two do.
She went to college and the fact that I paid was the reason why she got to go to college. I got to support her while she was in school and help with her tuition. Then, right out of college she planned wedding for the following year, so I paid for her wedding. So, it wasn’t until the year after that I was ready to leave. That wouldn’t have happened for her if I had left before that.
She said, “Mom, you should have gone earlier.” She understands why I did what I did.
I have three basic questions for guiding parents through how to tell their children:
The first is when are you going to tell them. The typical recommendation is that you and your STBX tell your children together and at the same time. With adult children who are no longer living at home, this probably isn’t going to happen so you have to think through these logistics.
The second is what are you going to tell them. The typical recommendation here is to keep it simple and avoid the details of who did what. That advice still holds true although it can be harder to follow with adult children who may have more of an awareness of what has been going and who will certainly have their own opinions which they will want to express.
The third is how will the divorce impact them. Adult children aren’t going to be moving between two homes but they will want to know what your divorce means to family Holidays and vacations, the family home and any of the ways you are currently supporting them such as going to college or helping with grandchildren.
Divorce always means having to renegotiate your relationship with your child so they see you as an individual rather than ‘mom and dad.’ This happens even if you and your ex are parenting as team. This renegotiation is harder with adult children. If they are no longer living at home then just the physical separation means less contact. Then, as Candi shares, your children’s lives may be full and they may have little time to support you. It’s going to be up to you to take the lead here to create the opportunities for more interaction and to make the effort to make this happen.
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