How to Tell Your Parents you are Getting DivorcedSep 20, 2023
Determining that you are going to divorce is hard enough emotionally, but then you have to tell your children, parents, extended family and close friends. It can be a huge undertaking, not only to communicate the decision to them, but also to help manage expectations and their emotions. This week on my podcast, I was joined by therapist Brian Burns. We talked about 3 main topics: how to send a united message to tell your loved ones, how to maintain relationships with your ex-family if desired, as well as, how to tell your adult children.
This topic came up as I had the sweetest Minnesota couple talk to me about how to share their divorce news with their family. They were worried because they are close to each other's family, and although a divorce will inevitably change relationships, they want to maintain a positive environment with each other's families. I have so many great resources to help people work through telling their children and handling children’s emotions but not so many for communicating a divorce to in-laws or even adult children.
Brian’s first piece of advice was to be a united front. Even if you can’t tell people together, sit down and plan out what you are going to tell people. This is not the time to bash the other person or say a bunch of negative things, especially when children are involved. He recommended telling parents and loved ones with the two of you together (if possible), however if that is not an option, coming up with a message that you want to put out to those around you. The message should be hopeful and positive, sharing the bad news of what’s happening in a way that gives enough information to help people understand, but not so much that it violates privacy and hurts people. Focus more on what is happening.
If you have children, be clear about the expectations you have for any talk that goes on around your children. Divorces can get nasty, but the last thing that any children need to hear is negative things about one of their parents. So communicate to your family and friends that those conversations can happen in private if they want to support you, but no negative statements should be made around the children. Another topic Brian brought up was telling your adult children about divorce, and how it can be even more difficult for them emotionally than for younger children. The reason for this is because as an adult they realize the weight of the decision and can see the picture a lot more clearly.
The amount of questions you receive about the divorce, and the reasoning behind it can feel quite overwhelming. Remember that the people asking these questions are trying to come to terms with their own emotions. They may be fearful that they will lose their son or daughter in law that they have bonded with, or that their grandchildren may be pulled away from them. This is where communication is key, providing the right amount of information to them that will help them understand, but also doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy.
Brian had a great quote for communicating out to loved ones, that I’d love to share here. “Nothing that we're gonna say is more important than love and the care that we have for you, for our family, for our kids, for each other, even though it's bad news. And that just set the tone for continuing relationships. Nothing that we say is going to get in the way of our relationships.” You can verbally say this to loved ones, or even send it out in an email if that seems most appropriate.
Lastly, we talked about divorce and social media. Social media is not the place to air your dirty laundry about what caused the divorce or the things that the other person did or didn’t do. We honestly don’t see any reason why the divorce needs to be announced on social media, not only because the world doesn’t need to know, but it may also be hard for loved ones to find out that way.
I hope you find this helpful as you dive into the uncomfortable world of divorce and that it gives you some great pointers on how to communicate out to your loved ones about the decision you have made. If you are looking for a mediator in the Minnesota area, I’d love to help, book a free consultation today. Brian also has some great resources on his website, as well as in his podcast Bad Weather Podcast which is geared for men facing divorce.
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