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  • Writer's pictureEmpty Nest Counseling

Navigating Relationships with Adult Children Post-Divorce

By: Laura Williams, Empty Nest Intern

Navigating life post-divorce can be challenging. One aspect that often gets overlooked is the relationship between parents and their adult children after a divorce. It's a path filled with unique challenges and opportunities for growth. With a little work you can navigate these relationships in a way that fosters understanding, respect, and healing.

Understanding Their Perspective

First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that adult children process divorce differently than younger children. They have a more mature understanding of relationships, and this can lead to a range of emotions, from relief to confusion or even betrayal. As a parent, it’s vital to acknowledge their feelings and offer space for them to express themselves without judgment. Remember, they're not just your children; they're adults with their own perspectives and emotional landscapes. It’s natural for them to experience a whirlwind of emotions—from confusion and sadness to concern for each parent's well-being. By listening deeply, acknowledging their emotions without judgment, and validating their experiences, you create an expectation of trust. It’s a space where they can share openly, and together, you can navigate this new chapter. Remember, they are not just extensions of your life, but individuals with their own paths, and your support is critical to guiding them through this new chapter.

Open Communication is Crucial

Communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship. Post-divorce, it becomes even more crucial. Encourage open, honest, and respectful dialogues. This doesn't mean you have to share all the details of your divorce, but rather be transparent about the changes that are occurring in your life. It's okay to express your emotions, but also be mindful of their feelings and boundaries. Open communication is about creating dialogue that's built on honesty, trust, and vulnerability. When you speak with your heart, sharing your truths and listening to theirs, you're telling them that their thoughts and feelings matter. This exchange doesn't have to be perfect; it's about being genuine. Whether it's over a cup of coffee or a simple phone call, these conversations are the lifelines that can bring you closer, healing not just your own heart but nurturing the bond you share. Remember to make space for laughter and understanding, because, through these shared moments, we continue to grow together.

Maintain Individual Relationships

It's essential to maintain a one-on-one relationship with each adult child. They should not feel the burden of choosing sides or acting as mediators between their parents. In the wake of a divorce, it becomes even more precious to maintain individual relationships with each of your adult children. Think of these relationships like a garden—each child is a unique plant that needs its own kind of care and attention to flourish. Spend time with them one-on-one, nurturing these connections with activities and conversations that celebrate their individuality. It’s about showing up for them, not just as a parent, but as someone who respects and enjoys who they've become as adults. These moments are opportunities to laugh, to share, and to build memories that are distinct from the family they once knew. By investing in these individual relationships, you’re not just keeping a bond alive, you're allowing it to evolve, becoming something even more beautiful and profound in the light of new beginnings.

Set Boundaries

Post-divorce dynamics can sometimes lead to blurred boundaries, especially with adult children. Setting boundaries with our adult children after a divorce is a gentle dance of love and respect. It is important to establish and respect boundaries, both yours and theirs. This includes not using them as a sounding board for your frustrations about your ex-spouse or expecting them to fulfill roles that are not theirs to take on. Healthy boundaries allow for a relationship that is based on mutual respect and understanding. It is important to have these conversations with a soft heart, letting them know that while your door is always open for support and love, you both are entitled to privacy and self-care. It’s not about building walls but about establishing boundaries that lead to mutual respect and independence. These boundaries help in fostering an environment where your relationship can thrive, free from the weight of unnecessary expectations or the burden of unresolved emotions. It's about nurturing a relationship where everyone feels heard, valued, and free to be their true selves.

Embrace the New Family Dynamics

Divorce often changes family dynamics, and it’s important to be adaptable. Embracing new family dynamics is about welcoming each season with open arms. It means creating new traditions that honor where we are now, while cherishing the memories that brought us here. It's about gathering around the table, which may look different but still feels like home because of the people there. It's recognizing that new branches may grow on our family tree—partners, grandchildren, or friends who become family. These changes are easier to adapt to with acceptance and celebration, crafting an atmosphere that respects everyone's place in it. This journey, with its bends and turns, allows us to come together in new ways, discovering that the heart of family remains constant through the love we share and the willingness to grow together.

Seek Support When Needed

Finally, it’s okay to seek support. This can be through therapy, support groups, or conversations with friends. As you navigate this new chapter, remember that taking care of your emotional well-being is not just beneficial for you, but also for your relationships with your adult children. At Ready Nest, we also offer vitality coaching to walk alongside you as you set and achieve specific goals for your current life phase. Each coaching option is tailored to help you achieve well-defined goals, ensuring a transformative and fulfilling journey towards self-discovery and personal growth. In this season post-divorce, you may benefit from this additional support as you rediscover your identity, explore your next chapter, and work to enhance and preserve your relationships. We're here to guide you through that process.

Navigating relationships with adult children post-divorce requires patience, understanding, and effort. It’s a journey that can lead to deeper connections and new beginnings. Remember, every family's journey is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. The key is to remain open, communicative, and respectful, paving the way for a healthy and evolving relationship.


If you find yourself in need of professional help, don't hesitate to reach out to us and schedule a session. Our dedicated team at Empty Nest Counseling is here to help you navigate life's challenges and transitions with care and compassion. Whether you're experiencing difficulties related to the milestones of becoming an Empty Nester or new grandparent or finding balance in how you relate to your adult children, our therapists are ready to support you. We offer both in-person and virtual therapy. Schedule a therapy session with us today and take the first step towards a healthier you. Remember, you don't have to face it alone – we're here for you.

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