Tips for Coping with Your Parents’ Divorce
Divorce is hard on everyone, but it's especially hard on the children – little ones, adolescents, and even adult children of divorce.
No matter how old you are, your parents’ divorce can rock your world. These two people are your personal reality and your history. They are the people who have loved you through all the ups and downs of your life. Of course you’re going to have a difficult time.
You’re not alone if you’re struggling to cope with your parents’ divorce. It isn’t easy for anyone.
Divorce is hard on young people
If you’re a kid trying to survive your parents’ divorce, here are some things you can expect.
Your daily routine might change
Divorce is disruptive to everyone’s routine. Your mom and dad are likely living in two different places now. A new custody arrangement may have you at different homes on different days of the week. And your routines might change. For example, maybe your dad used to make breakfast, but now your mom has to figure it out. Maybe your mom used to pick you up from school, but now you have to take the bus.
It will all be new at first, but new routines feel normal after a while. Give it time.
You might live in a new place
Your living arrangements might change. If you move to a new place, it won’t feel like home for a while. The neighborhood will be different, and the people will be different. Your friends may be farther away, and it may feel lonely for a while. Over time, this can change. Life will start to feel normal again.
You might change schools
At school, you know your teachers, where your classes are, and your friends. But if you have to change schools, you won’t know anyone at first. It takes time to get used to a new school and feel comfortable with new people. Be patient with yourself.
Your holidays and vacations might look different
Perhaps until now, holidays in your family were always the same. Maybe you spent time with your cousins over summer break and your grandparents over winter break. Now, things may be different. If you go on vacation, chances are only one parent will come along.
Although holidays and vacations will look and feel different for a while, you’ll find your own fun and eventually get used to the new routines. In fact, your new holidays might be even more fun than the old ones. You won’t know until you try it.
Your emotions might be all over the place
When you’re the kid of divorcing parents, you might feel like your entire world has collapsed. You might also feel relieved to escape some of the tension that was building in your home. Whatever your situation is, it’s natural to have all sorts of feelings about it.
For example, you may feel sad about the changes to your life and angry at your parents for getting divorced. You may feel anxious about your own future. You may even feel guilty for the conflict in your family. But kids are never to blame for their parents' divorce. Remember that. Adults are responsible for making all of the decisions about their relationships.
Although your parents may be struggling with their own issues right now, they need to know what’s going on with you. Talk to them about how you’re feeling. It’s their job to take care of you.
Advice for young children (12 and under)
Find someone to talk to. If you can’t talk to your parents right now, talk to an older brother or sister, a trusted family member, or an adult who can help you understand what’s going on and what you can expect.
Remember it’s not your fault. You are not responsible for your parents’ divorce. No child is. Nothing you did or could have done would be enough to make your parents go their separate ways.
Be honest with your parents. You know they’re going through their own stuff right now, but they need to know how you’re doing. Tell them your feelings, even if you’re angry. Let them know how afraid you are.
Do you have friends whose parents are divorced? Ask them about how they felt and what they did to cope.
Advice for teens
Remind yourself (as many times as necessary) that your parents' divorce isn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter if they fought when you stayed out past your curfew last month. It doesn’t matter if they fought when you said you wanted a tattoo. Adults in a failing relationship will fight over just about anything. If not you, they would have found something else to fight about.
Talk with them about your concerns. You deserve to know what’s happening now and in your future. Your parents may not have all the answers yet, but they need to know it’s on your mind. Your concerns deserve their acknowledgment and respect.
Find constructive ways to deal with your stress. Do you do sports? Have a hobby? Throw yourself into it. Don’t make matters worse by coping in unhealthy ways.
Talk to friends, a coach, a teacher, a guidance counselor, your minister, or another trusted adult. Getting an outside perspective may help you see some of the positive things you can’t see right now.
Advice for adult children of divorce
Ask your parents questions to stay informed. What are their plans for the future? How might their divorce affect your future? Your kids’ future? Let them know you feel a sense of loss. A lot of times, the feelings of adult children of divorce are overlooked.
Refuse to be the go-between. Sometimes, parents use children – even adult children – as messengers. This is the easy way out because they don’t have to talk to each other. Make it clear that that won’t be your job. It would unfair to you and likely detrimental to your emotional well-being.
Remember who you are. As an adult, you have separated from your parents and now have your own life. Perhaps you have a spouse of your own, kids of your own. Although it might be easy to get sucked into their drama, remember that you have your own life to tend to as well.
Things will never be the same, but better things may be on the horizon. Give yourself time and space to work through your own feelings about your parents’ divorce. Find support. Get professional advice if you need to.
At Hello Divorce, we want you to know you’re not alone. Divorce affects the whole family, but there are many people who have survived this and thrived afterward. We are here with services and resources for everyone. Can we help? Schedule a free 15-minute call.