If you’re an “empty nester” going through a divorce, breaking the news about your divorce to your adult children will take a different tone than if the children were living at home. For one thing, you won’t have to reprocess the information for a childlike understanding—you can talk to adult children as adults. Secondly, you won’t have the added complications of explaining custody or living situations, because those issues are irrelevant at this point.
Even so, adult children often take the news of divorce just as hard as younger children, even though they should be better able to process it. Here are a couple of thoughts to consider when talking to your adult children about your divorce.
Be Prepared for Fallout
Even though grown children have a lesser stake in your home life at this point, their image of their family growing up may be foundational to their own worldview, so news of your divorce can still rock their world. Adult children won’t be as worried about their own living situation, but they can still get angry, and they can be more capable of looking for someone to blame. When breaking the news, be sure to give your adult children the chance to express their anger and frustration without taking it personally.
Maintain Healthy Boundaries
There are two sides to this idea. First, your grown children are more likely to understand the dynamics of why you’re divorcing, but that doesn’t mean it’s their business to know the ugly details. Remember that your ex is still their parent, too, so try to avoid speaking in a derogatory manner about him/her. (This can be especially challenging if your adult child is a confidante.) Second, your decision to divorce is really between you and your ex at this point, so you have the right to draw a loving but firm boundary if your adult child begins trying to accuse or criticize you for the decision. Show a little grace, but don’t take it personally—and remind the child if need be that this is still your life and your decision. (It’s also okay to remind them that you’re hurting probably more than they are.)
Processing the news of a divorce may be no less difficult for an adult child than a younger one still living at home. However, by coming to the conversation prepared and by extending grace to one another, it’s possible to weather the storm together.