How to Tell In-Laws & Parents About Divorce

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As if deciding to get a divorce wasn’t tough enough, you’re faced with the daunting task of breaking the news to your parents and in-laws. In an ideal situation, both sets of parents would be understanding and offer their support, but with so many emotions in the mix, there are many ways that revealing divorce news can go wrong. To avoid any extra drama, make it a point to tell your parents and in-laws about the divorce the right way and in an appropriate manner.

Decide on an Appropriate Time

Timing is crucial when breaking important news about a divorce. Depending on your relationship with your ex-spouse and in-laws, you may decide to tell both parents together or separately. Don’t tell them after a bad fight with your ex. Make sure that you are both in a good head space. In his book “Lifescripts For Family and Friends: What to Say In 101 of Life’s Most Troubling and Uncomfortable Situations," psychotherapist Erik Kolbell suggests revealing the news on a Saturday morning or afternoon. This gives them the rest of the day to take in the news. Avoid bearing the bad news during a family party or during a holiday celebration.

Show That You Tried to Make it Work

When revealing your decision to divorce, a parent’s first response might be to suggest that you see a counselor or try to make it work. Let them know that you are both unhappy in the relationship, the situation isn’t simple and the decision wasn’t easy. Kolbell suggests going to see a marriage counselor with your ex, even if you still intend to get a divorce. This might help you avoid taking the divorce to court and will show your parents and in-laws that you tried to make the marriage work.

Don't Blame Your Ex

Both your parents and in-laws will feel protective of their respective children. Although it may be difficult for you, remember that it is also difficult for both sets of parents. Make the news easier to digest by avoiding blaming your ex-partner. If you have kids, ask your parents and in-laws to respect your family by avoiding negative talk about you and your ex. According to the “American Psychological Association," fighting in front of kids can put them at risk for psychological and social problems. Stress that it is best for the kids if they do not hear fighting within the family.

Ask for Privacy

Your parents and in-laws are probably going to ask you what exactly went wrong in the relationship. If you don’t want to discuss the reasons behind your divorce in detail, acknowledge that it is a stressful time and you will tell them when you are ready. Be assertive about letting them know that you will come to them for advice if you need, but you’d also like them to respect your decisions.