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How do you tell your adult children you're getting divorced?

Whether you were only staying together for the sake of the children or just grew apart after you had an "empty nest," telling your adult children that their parents are getting divorced is never easy.

In fact, it's probably easier both to break the news to young children and for young children to adapt. Adult children generally have a hard time getting people to understand that their grief over the divorce is very real -- even when they are grown.

Here are some tips on how to handle the issue:

  • Make sure you tell your children early. You don't want to let them find out on social media. They need to hear it from one or both of you first.
  • If possible, tell them together. Try to consider it your last joint act with your spouse when it comes to raising your children.
  • Reassure the kids that they don't have to choose sides. Make sure you mean that statement, too.
  • Remember that it's okay if you don't want to discuss certain things. Frankly, you may not have thought far enough ahead to have considered how the holiday dinners are going to be handled. As to why you are divorcing, keep your answer short and simple. Good answers include things like, "We just don't want to be married to each other anymore," or "We fell out of love."
  • Don't go into tawdry details -- even after you have any of the kids to yourself. While they may eventually find out that their father has a chronic drinking problem or their mother had an affair, avoid trashing out your spouse. That gives the kids the impression that they do have to take sides.
  • Don't try to defend your decision. Some of your kids may insist that you're too old to divorce or that you're being foolish. Recognize that their feelings are a reflection of their own grief and you can't convince them of the "rightness" of the divorce.

The biggest thing to remember is that you don't need their permission or acceptance to have a divorce -- but they do need your reassurances that they're still loved equally by both parents and that it's okay if they still love you both equally in return.

For more information on divorce at any age, talk to an attorney today.

Source: AARP, "The Way They Were," Brooke Lea Foster, accessed Aug. 25, 2017

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