Divorce is hard, for all of the individuals involved. When your parents decide to get divorced, you may experience many different, overwhelming, and even conflicting emotions. You may feel torn between the two people you love the most, and you may even feel to blame for what has happened.
It is important to know that you are not the reason for your parents’ divorce, and you are not alone. No matter how old you are when your parents decide to go their separate ways – whether you are 10 or 20 – learning to live with divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster.
If you are the child of newly divorced parents, or you know of a child who is struggling with his or her parents’ divorce, here are some ways to help cope.
1. Talk to someone. Talking about your problems is a good thing, and honesty is the most important. Never repress your feelings. Whether you talk with your parents, a friend, a school counselor, or a therapist, it is helpful to get your thoughts and fears out into the open. Check in with your parents regularly – tell them how you feel, what is going on with you, and what you need from them in order to do better.
2. Don’t take sides. Don’t choose one parent’s side over the other.
3. Don’t become either parent’s protector. They are grown-ups and do not need your help.
4. Don’t become a collaborator, agent, or a messenger. Let your parents relate to each other independently.
5. Don’t feel guilty, and don’t blame yourself. Children have no control over their parents’ marriage.
6. Spend time with each parent alone. It is okay to spend one-on-one time with each parent, separately. You are a part of both, and can love them both equally.
7. Allow yourself to grieve the end of your original family. This will help you open to the possibilities of your own resource and transition into a new and healthier family structure.
8. Give up the secret mission of reuniting your family. Realize that you cannot “fix” your parents’ relationship.
9. Have empathy. Empathy is so important during this time. Remember to have empathy for yourself, and for your parents.
10. Stick to your routine. Maintaining your normal, every day routine can help you feel more in control when everything seems out of control.
11. Don’t try to take on the role as head of the house or homemaker. You are a child, and entitled to your childhood.
At the end of the day, it is important to have open conversations about your feelings. If you can’t put them into words, then draw, play, dance, and write in a journal.
You are entitled to your feelings, whatever they may be – they are legitimate. Divorce is a loss of innocence, and as a child you have been put into a space that is new and frightening. Remember: your parents still love you, and even though they may no longer be married, they are still there for you, to comfort and guide you.