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Talking to your adult children about your decision to divorce

Google “gray divorce,” and you will come across this statistic nearly every time: Among U.S. adults age 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s.

A gray divorce is – you guessed it – a divorce between two people in their “gray hair years,” typically age 50 and older.

How do you convey your thoughts and feelings to your adult children?

When you think about the reasons you are getting divorced, you might think about:

  • A new chapter in your life
  • A desire to reinvent yourself
  • A yearning to improve your quality of life

How do you explain these feelings to your adult children, and how do you do it in a manner that won’t make them question their entire childhood? Your children might be in college, their 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s. For some of you, your children may have had a feeling for decades that your marriage wasn’t happy or healthy. For others, the foundation of your children’s lives may be shaken.

The way you approach your children can help set the tone for the remainder of your relationship with them. You may consider the following:

  • Telling your children separately or as a group. As their mother or father, you know the sibling dynamics. Would it be better to tell each individually, or would your kids benefit from being told at the same time? Give this some thought – each family is different, and you need to do what is best for yours.
  • Expecting to get questions. Now that they are adults, your kids might ask you pointed and outspoken questions. “Is this because Mom drinks too much?” “Has Dad been having an affair?” “Is this because Dad never let you do what you wanted to do?” “Did you stay together all these years just because of us?” Your kids might know more about your marriage than you think they do, or they might be taken completely by surprise. Be prepared to answer the questions and give them authentic from-the-heart answers.
  • Discussing what the future will look like. Where will the holidays be hosted? Will you still go on your annual family vacation? How often will the grandkids get to see you? While your children will not have to worry about child custody arrangements as they would if they were minors, they will still have concerns about how the divorce impacts their relationship with their parents and other family dynamics.
  • Avoiding talking bad about the other parent. As adults, your children get to decide who they talk to and who they don’t. Take responsibility for your portion of the break up and don’t point fingers at your spouse. If your children have good relationships with both you and the other parent, it is wise to continue this after the divorce.

Now that you have a few suggestions, think about each point and, when you’re ready, plan a time to discuss the divorce with your kids.

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