This one is all about telling your kids you’re getting a divorce. Ask Divorce Coach is Women’s Divorce Coach’s divorce advice column. Have a question? Send it to Cindy here. It’s anonymous!
Dear Divorce Coach,
I decided years ago I wanted a divorce but have waited until the kids are grown and out of the house. That day has finally come. My son is 20 and my daughter is 18 and off to college. I don’t think they will be terribly surprised by my news – my husband and my relationship has been strained for a long time and they don’t have a close relationship with him either. However, I am feeling so much anxiety and I’m not sure what to say, when to say it, or what to do with the stuff they still have in the house. Do you have any advice about telling the kids about the divorce?
– Mom of adult kids
Dear Mom of Adult Kids,
I’ve had a number of clients who I’ve helped communicate to their adult children about their desire for separation and divorce. It can be difficult to know what to share and what not to share with your adult kids. First, I think it’s important to consider your relationship with each child, what kind of communication works best with them within the context of your relationship, and how this conversation might set the stage for your relationship in the future. No matter what their age, most children do not want to see their parents divorce. In your case, if their relationship is strained with their dad, they may have mixed feelings. Either way, allowing them to have and express whatever feelings they do have when you tell them, is the best gift you can give them. In-person is also best, but if your kids are not close in proximity and you don’t want to wait until you will see them again, a video call (zoom, FaceTime, etc.) is next best. Timing is important – make sure that you are both in a physical and emotional space to talk and listen. Planning the call in advance can help with that. In terms of the content of your message, working that out and even doing a role play with a divorce coach can be extremely helpful. If that isn’t an option, I recommend at the least using these concepts to guide you: brief, kind and address how it will affect them. In your explanation, do not disparage your husband or overshare the intimate details of your marriage. If they have questions, think ahead of time about what boundaries you will want to enforce. Also, be prepared that they may have some guilt if they put two and two together about the fact that you’ve remained in an unhappy marriage due to them. Reminding them that this is your decision and feels like the right time for YOU is key. Encourage them to continue to have whatever relationship they’d like with their dad (but be clear that you won’t be in the middle) and that time during holidays and special events can be worked out fairly in the future. As for their stuff, ask them directly what they’d like for you to do. Good luck!
Dear Divorce Coach,
I have young kids (5 and 7) and my husband and I are getting a divorce. He told me recently that he had a brief affair with a co-worker. On top of that, he got a great promotion but the new position is across the country. He desperately wants us to move to the new city with him so he can see the kids regularly, but my family is here and I have no interest in uprooting our lives. I’m so angry with him about the affair and I’m sure that’s affecting my feelings about doing anything that might be helpful to him too. The kids have seen us fight a lot these last few months and know that something is up. I know it’s wrong to tell them what a jerk their dad is and that a job is more important to him than they are but I also don’t want them to think I’m doing this to them on purpose. How do I tell the kids and keep my anger out of it?
– Angry mama
Dear Angry Mama,
I’m so sorry you’re in such a tough spot. It sounds like you feel very angry, hurt, and I am guessing a good deal of rejection from the news of his affair. It feels incredibly sad when we are abandoned by someone we love. I think understanding this link – being abandoned = hurt and rejection can guide you in understanding how your kids might feel about the news that their dad is leaving. As a mom, we often put our own feelings aside to be a soft place for our kids to land when they are hurting. It doesn’t mean that you can’t share all of your most honest feelings with your friends and family and get the support you need. I highly recommend that you trust your intuition and do your best to leave that out of your conversations with your kids, however. The affair happened in your marriage, not in their parent-to-child relationship. Someday they might learn about it, but your relationship with them will be better if this information does not come from you. If you have decided to stay put in your community, then it is up to your husband to decide whether he is willing to move or not. For your kids’ sake, having as good of a relationship with him as possible will benefit them now and in the future. I encourage you to help facilitate that as much as possible, despite your anger with him. In terms of sharing the news with them, if possible, it’s best for it to come from both of you. Working with a divorce coach to find the right words can be helpful. Best of luck!