If you’ve been consuming a lot of advice as you move toward divorce, you’ve probably seen multiple articles on how parents should tell their children they’re divorcing. If you and your spouse don’t have children, you’re likely relieved that you don’t have to go through that.
Telling your parents, however, can be challenging in its own way. It can be particularly tough if no one in your immediate family is divorced or you grew up in a religion or culture where divorce isn’t accepted easily.
Many couples who have been together for a long time and are close to their in-laws break the news together. If you agree that divorce is the best thing and you’re relatively amicable, having this conversation as a couple with parents on both sides can minimize harsh feelings. If you have children, it can be reassuring to hear that you both want them to remain in their grandchildren’s lives.
If you’re divorcing because one spouse has cheated on the other or done something else unpardonable or only one of you wants the divorce, it’s probably better to have the initial conversations separately with your parents.
Set boundaries and maintain control of the conversation
Whether you’re breaking the news to your parents alone or with your spouse, it’s important to prepare. That means having some statements ready and setting boundaries about how much information to share.
You can stick with simple but definitive sentences for now like, “We’ve decided this is what’s best” or “We’ve tried, but we just couldn’t work things out.” It’s important to be clear that the decision to divorce has been made and you’re not calling to get their opinion, but because you didn’t want to keep such an important change in your life from them.
Having clear boundaries for the conversation is crucial. If your parents start criticizing or blaming you (or your spouse), it’s wise to shut things down with a simple statement like, “That’s not helping me (us).”
There will be more conversations
This is just your initial conversation to break the news. Your parents may react with shock, anger or (who knows?) with love and support. You’ll have plenty of time to determine how much to tell them as the process moves forward. Remember that you’ll likely need them more than you have in some time, so don’t burn any bridges if they don’t react the way you expected.
You don’t need to share all the legal ins-and-outs of the divorce. However, it can help them to know that you have experienced legal guidance.