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When is the best time to tell adult children about divorce?

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I’ve been considering divorce for several years and have decided that the time is not too far away. Our son is going off to college this year (to another country), and I do not wish to share the news of the divorce with him at the same time he is adjusting to living on his own in another country. How much time should I allow for him to adjust to being away from home, before I tell him the bad news? He already realizes that things aren’t great between my husband and I, after living with a very self-absorbed father all these years and witnessing my disappointment with the marriage, however I don’t think our son and daughter (grown) realize that I really do intend to separate from their father. I guess timing is my question. Thank you!

When is the best time to tell adult children about divorce?

Answered by on -


It seems to be human nature. No matter how old kids are or how bad things have been at home, when parents announce a divorce, the kids are generally devastated. The family they are used to and took for granted is now going to change. Especially when there hasn’t been overt violence or abuse, the kids have a very hard time understanding why you would want to disrupt their idea of home.
The best time to tell them would have been when they were both home and could ask you and their father whatever questions they might have. Since you didn’t do that, be prepared for a lot of phone calls and emails. You are upsetting their world and they’re going to need to talk to both of their parents. From their point of view, your decision will feel “out of the blue”. You and your husband managed to stay together for years despite his self-absorbtion and your disappointment. They will wonder why you are separating now, when they maybe thought you’d made it through the difficult times.
Kids, even adult kids, usually need to be reassured that the divorce has nothing to do with them and that although you are divorcing each other, you are both still there for them as parents. Hopefully, you and your husband will make an arrangement that is civil enough that you can put the kids’ feelings ahead of your own when they have important events and want both of their parents there.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

When is the best time to tell adult children about divorce?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). When is the best time to tell adult children about divorce?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 23, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.