'Don’t delay the inevitable': Adult children of divorce share what they wish they could tell their parents now - and it could be valuable insight for co-parents

If you're a divorced parent, or a parent considering divorce worried about your kids, there's no better people to turn to for advice than those who have gone through it

Parent and adult child holding hands
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Adults whose parents divorced in childhood have candidly revealed what they wish they could tell their parents now, giving divorced parents and parents considering divorce invaluable insight into their experiences and feelings.

It can be hard to know when it's the right time to walk away from a relationship no matter what situation you find yourself in. But it's especially hard to call it quits when you're a parent and know that your decision will not only affect you, but also your kids.

Getting divorced after having a baby is more common than you may think as divorce enquiries recently reached an all time high, and while the stats reveal a sad truth, it's also comforting to know you're not alone. Still, while family members and friends may understand your decision, it's another thing to know how to talk to your kids about your divorce and let them know that their lives are about to change pretty significantly.

However, testimony from adult children of divorce suggests that your kids will be ok when you break the news and, according to some, probably knew it was coming.

“Don’t delay the inevitable," one person whose parents divorced during their childhood told The Every Mom. "Don’t stay together for the kids. Just be honest. We knew it was going to end, but instead, we had to live through years of awkward tension, strategic avoidance, and fighting. It built resentment that, to be honest, is still there.”

Another shared the importance of letting kids be kids throughout the transition, especially if you have older kids who may feel the need to take on parenting responsibilities to ease your burden - you don't want to enhance the struggles for those who may already be experiencing eldest daughter syndrome.

"If you have children who are older, please make sure that you are providing them with space to still be a kid and enjoy their youth even during this time of difficult transition," they said. "Especially if you have an eldest daughter, it’s likely that that child will take on certain adult and parenting responsibilities as you each process the massive change in your domestic situation. This is inevitable, but it should be recognised and appreciated, and your oldest child should still feel like they have some time in their day-to-day life to be a kid.

"Just because you likely need extra support during this time does not mean that your eldest child is ready to take on parenting-level responsibilities."

But, while giving kids space to be kids during a divorce is important, it's also vital to treat them with respect and let them have a say in how your co-parenting arrangement will work. "It’s easy to feel like a ‘possession’ being fought over during a divorce (and well after)," said one person. "I wish I had more of a say when it came to visitation schedules, especially as I grew older."

Another reoccurring element many adult children of divorce wished to tell their parents was to 'coexist peacefully.' It can be difficult to hear one parent talk badly about the other, and this may confuse and upset children. In fact, not talking badly about another parent is one of the 11 co-parenting boundaries to live by. With that in mind, one person urged divorced parents, “After it’s over, find a way to coexist peacefully. It might be awkward at first, but deal with the discomfort. Just be normal about it.”

Looking ahead, the impact of a divorce lasts long after its finalised and everyone has settled into their new arrangement. As divorced parents move on with their lives and try to build up new relationships, many adult children of divorce have shared how it's important to keep children in mind, no matter their age.

One person shared, “If you are going to start dating somebody new, keep your children in the conversation. Ask your children how they feel about you dating and ask them if they even like the person you are dating. Make sure they feel comfortable with the situation before you start making decisions and forcing a new person into their lives without getting their input. Don’t expect your children to love your new partner, and don’t make them feel bad for not wanting to spend time with them.”

Another added, “You’re both going to start relationships with other people. That’s totally fine. But I wish you had taken more time to be alone first. More time to figure out what life without each other felt like. More time to let us all adjust. Just more time.”

But it isn't just advice these people have to share, they also reveal words of comfort for any parent going through a divorce whose worrying about their kids and the impact this change may have on them.

One person, saying what they wish they could say to their parents now, revealed, "Your divorce taught me that not all families have to look picture-perfect to be filled with love and support. Ultimately, you guys did your best, and you’re both still there for me (and now my family), even in adulthood. Your constant presence and love is something I will never take for granted.”

Another shared, “As much as I wanted the white-picket-fence upbringing, I’m actually glad you two didn’t drag out a marriage that wasn’t right for you. You, especially, mum, deserved to be happy and no longer be in a toxic relationship. I’m happy you got out, found your independence, and someone better for you. And I thank you for helping me find the same.”

If you are considering or going through a divorce, there is plenty of advice online to help guide you through. From news that reveals the four early signs of divorce that can predict a split with over 90% accuracy to new research that shows money is the biggest co-parenting worry for divorced parents and that grandparents act as a vital rock and ‘buffer’ for children when their parents divorce - but one in particular is more likely to step up and help.

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.