Even though your child may have grown up and in many ways be independent, inside your adult son or daughter is a child watching their mum and dad separate. Their relationship with you and their other parent remains important. Ensuring it's good can be critical to all the family’s well being.
Talking to grown up children
I’m 28 and four months ago, aged 52 and 55, my parents decided to separate. When I first found out I thought it was a good idea. They’ve both been unhappy for years.
However as time goes on I find it more and more difficult to cope with. I find myself swinging from extreme upset to extreme anger. I’m terrified this may happen to my marriage too.
Maintain your parent role
Even if your relationship with your child has transformed from the traditional parent-child one to more of an adult-adult one, you may still need to take on a parenting role.
Sometimes adult children worry about their parents and find themselves wanting to support and help them. This though may not be helpful for their long-term adjustment to your separation.
It can help to talk to your grown-up child, and encourage them to share their feelings. Sometimes it’s easier to do this if you meet in a neutral space, maybe a coffee shop or out for a walk.
Tips for healthy talking
When talking to your grown-up child you may want to:
- Remain mindful that you’re still the parent and they’re still your child, even if not a child.
- Be aware of their emotions and focus on their needs.
- Remember that their feelings about their other parent won’t be the same as yours. (It can really help if you make an effort to keep things neutral, for example by avoiding negative or critical language about your ex.)
- Share memories about happy times.
- Highlight any positive qualities you see in them that remind you in a good way of their other parent.
- Let them know you’re still there for them.
- Help them recognise that from now on they can enjoy separate relationships: one with Mum and one with Dad.
To help you from over-burdening your adult child with your emotional needs, you may want to think about where you can find support for yourself.
Supporting your grown up child
Your grown-up child may need you to make the effort to stay in touch. It can help them if you check how they’d like you to do this. Arrange a time to meet your adult child in a neutral place for example, a coffee shop or restaurant. Ask how they’re feeling and listen to their answers. Don’t refer to how your feeling during your conversation but do offer understanding comments like; ‘that must be really difficult for you’ or ‘I’ve felt that way too’ (but don’t expand on this). Ask your child how they’d like you to ask how they’re feeling in the future and offer them alternatives like face to face, phone, web-cam or e-mail. Make a regular time in your diaries to catch up and talk in their preferred method.
Find out more
Check your situation with our assessment tools
The process of answering the questions in each agreement builder should help you consider what outcomes are best for your children and both of you. They can form a useful starting point when discussing your situation with your ex-partner or a legal representative such as a solicitor.
How you’re going to be effective co-parents apart is one of the most important things you’ll need to figure out. It can be one of the hardest issues – very emotive. This tool aims to give you a head start to managing this well. It will help you explore your own motivations and emotions, and be curious about where your ex may be coming from and what lies behind their ideas.