Question : My parents told me that they are getting divorced. My mother will go live with my Nani and Nana in their house, and I will live two weeks with my father, two weeks with my mother. I knew my parents had problems, but doesn’t everyone have problems? Why do they have to have a divorce? And they’ve said that it isn’t to do with me, but I don’t believe them – some of their fights had to do with my tuition fees. Now I’ll be the “kid with the divorced parents” and that’s so humiliating and shameful. Why can’t they just get along and we can be a happy family again. Teentalker , 13-year-old
It sucks that your parents are going through a divorce – divorces are never easy for anyone involved. You sound like a really self-aware teen and I’m glad that you’re seeking answers to your questions during this confusing time. Let’s focus on two things: One, how your parents’ divorce has little, if anything, to do with you, Two, what you can do to manage the disturbance to your family life and routine.
Here are some steps you can take
- Divorces are never easy and clean, and give yourself time and space to feel angry with your parents – you could write about your anger, or listen to angry music.
- Repeat this to yourself several times a day: as much as it feels like it is, the divorce is not my fault. It is a decision two grown up people have made between themselves because their relationship was making them feel sadder than happier, and they feel that in the long-term they will be happier without the marriage.
- Challenge your idea of a happy family. A happy family can mean many things: it could mean a divorced couple with a child, all of whom are happier now than before when there was constant fighting and tension at home.
- Talk to a trusted friend, family member or teacher who can support you, offer you guidance or comfort or distract you.
You are absolutely spot on when you say that everyone has problems – all relationships and marriages have their fair share of issues, and sometimes we can deal with them. Other times though, the problems become too big. They crowd out any chance for happiness or joy and this is when we feel that taking a drastic step like a divorce is necessary. Parents usually spend a long time weighing the pros and cons of separating, and many often stay together for as long as they do because they have a kid – as you’ve observed, your parents’ fights started a long time ago but they’ve only just decided to separate.
It sounds like you’re blaming yourself. This is because we tend to internalize the idea from childhood that something bad or wrong equals something that we have caused, even though in this case it is simply not true. Do you think you can speak to your parents individually about this?
I know you’re probably angry with them because being the “kid with the divorced parents” isn’t an easy thing. You’ve called it humiliating and shameful – certainly in some societies divorce is viewed with shame. But divorce can also be a really freeing choice – a chance to move away from unhappiness and a chance to build a new beginning. I wonder if we could also challenge the idea of a “happy family”. The idea of the “happy family” is sometimes a mask for what is really a very unhappy family – parents who don’t get along, and a kid who grows up in a tense environment. That’s really stressful to live with constantly. And at the same time, many families that have only a mother or a father living with their child can be very happy family. I’m not saying that having divorced parents is suddenly going to make everyone happy – it takes time for a new beginning and to find freedom – but it may be a less stressful, tense and happy environment than it was before. What do you think?
I’m concerned that you’re processing your parents’ divorce all alone. Could you think of one friend, teacher or family member who you can discuss it with? Sometimes reading online about teens who’ve been through similar situations can be extremely supportive.
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