There are some things your adult children would like you to know about your separation from their other parent.
When children are small up to late teens, parents are generally careful about what they tell their children when the relationship between mum and dad breaks down. Younger children are shielded as much as possible from the details of the relationship breakdown. When children become adults, many parents don’t seem to realise that although the children are adults, a relationship breakdown impacts on them just as much as if they were young children.
So what would your adult children like you to know?
This will shake them up just as much as if the split happened when they were younger. Perhaps even more so because Mum and Dad have always been together, that’s all they’ve ever known. As their parents, you’ve always been there. Changing that situation is a shock to their system. If you waited until they left home before separating, would you be surprised they’d be shocked hurt and angry, or maybe even guilty, because perhaps you’d still be there if they’d not left home? Children always blame themselves for parental relationship breakdown. It’s no different now they’re older.
They may call their own relationships into question. If yours can breakdown after being there all of their lives, is their marriage safe? After all, you and your spouse have taught them through observance and nurture what marriage is all about. Now you’ve changed the rules, and that’s hard to cope with. Make sure you reinforce to them that they’re not at risk in their own relationship, that they can learn from your mistakes. Marriages, de facto or otherwise, do not have to breakdown.
Don’t make them the go-between or even the nearest shoulder to cry upon. Yes they’re adults with a greater capacity for understanding, but you’re still the parent. They don’t need to know it all. They may want to know — but they don’t need to know. Believe me, they’ll thank you for it later.
Find a professional to confide in, not your adult children.
Don’t ask them to take sides in the breakdown. Your relationship with their parent is not their relationship with their parent. Don’t bring discord into the entire family unit. While they may ask for details, be sparing with your information. Above all, don’t take your adult children with you when you see your family lawyer. Rely on professional advice not the advice that adult children may feel they have to give you. On occasions there are highly vested interests amongst adult children in a property division. Trust your lawyer to advise you on the best way forward.
Remember your children still need you to be their parents. By not asking them to take sides, you avoid putting them in difficult situations when it comes to birthdays, weddings or family celebrations. Be inventive about major celebrations. Your children will understand you still love them if you don’t spend every birthday Christmas or Easter Sunday with them, allowing the other parent to share time with them too.
Be kind in your comments about their parent. You might find those snippy remarks funny about your former partner — your children will not. They’ll only see disrespect and learn from you how to treat an ex partner. Be kind — its costs nothing, and you gain more. Do your best to see the good in your ex spouse, you cared enough to be parents together. You’re still the parents. Let them know you still love them, will still be there for them and will still do your best to help them through life’s challenges. They’ll thank you for this later.
Don’t rush into another relationship straight away. If you do, don’t expect your adult children to be cool with it immediately. Take your time introducing your new lover to your family if you want that new love to be with you for a long time. Just as you’d take your time introducing a new partner into younger children’s lives, take your time when forming a relationship with a new partner.
If there’s one final tip I can give you it’s this: under normal circumstances, it should be you and your former partner delivering the news to your adult children together about the breakdown, with no recriminations, no vitriol no daughters or sons-in-law, just you and your children. There’ll be tears for sure, but as a parent you are not new to that. Let them know you still love them and expect them to continue to love the other parent, you just cannot be together any more. They will thank you for that too.