It’s not surprising that divorce can take a psychological toll on children. It’s a big, scary unknown for everyone involved and many kids struggle with feelings of anxiety, distress, anger, fear, and disbelief, especially in the beginning. It can be really tough for them to process these emotions as well as adjust to changes to daily routines and new living arrangements. Divorce basically rocks the world they’ve counted on every day. But kids are also super resilient and have a great capacity to bounce back — especially when divorcing parents take an active role in helping their kids feel safe and secure and fostering a communicative and healthy relationship with them.
So, how does a kid whose parents divorced feel about divorce?
Erin Levine, CEO of Hello Divorce, speaks with 16-year-old Asher
Erin talks to 16-year-old Asher to get his take on growing up with divorced parents. From the age of three, Asher spent half of his time with his mom and half with his dad. His parents made a conscious decision to co-parent in a way that always put him first. In fact, his parents later co-authored a book about how to have a happy divorce.
Related: Asher’s dad (Ben) recently guest authored this blog post on how he and his ex-wife navigated divorce as smoothly as possible. Read: Trading in the Pit Bull Attorney for a Happy Divorce
Erin: You were three when your parents divorced, right? Do you remember what it was like in the beginning?
Asher: I don’t remember too much because I was young. When I first saw the moving boxes, I was initially confused about what was going on, but then I got it. Moving back and forth between my mom and dad started immediately. At first, I stayed with each parent for a week. But my parents noticed it might have been too long for me, so they asked me how I felt about it. We decided to switch our schedule to every four days.
Another thing they’d always ask me was how I was feeling at both houses. What did I like about one place versus another? Were the snacks at Mom’s ok? What about the toys at Dad’s? When I transitioned from one parent to the other, I didn’t have to pack much other than my school stuff, which made it easier. I had duplicates of nearly everything for both houses.
Erin: How do you keep up with the other parent when you’re not with them? What about during this time of coronavirus?
Asher: When one parent is on the road or traveling, we call and text a lot. When I was younger, my dad would call my mom so that we could talk. During the coronavirus pandemic, we make sure to connect with FaceTime and over the phone. It also depends on how far away they are and whether one parent can easily drive to see me.
Erin: How do your parents make you feel special?
Asher: One way they make me feel important is by sacrificing their own time to make sure I don’t miss out on time with the other parent. For example, if I’m at my mom’s but my dad is going on a trip, my mom would give up time at her house so I can spend extra time with my dad before his trip. And vice versa.
Erin: Your parents are both remarried. What was it like to meet their now spouses for the first time?
Asher: My mom introduced Chad slowly. She’d invite him over for dinner. Chad and I would play together for hours and hours afterward. I knew it was getting serious when we started to do things out of the house, more frequently. I enjoyed having Chad around because I always liked playing with him. I was surprised but excited when they got engaged. I wondered what it would be like to have a stepdad but mostly I was excited. The biggest thing Chad did was ask me for permission to propose to my mom. I don’t really remember if I had any questions about it but I was like, “Yeah, that’s cool.” It was actually really cool to be part of the proposal and wedding planning.
When my dad met Nadia, it was different. The first time I met her I thought she was just a friend of my dad’s. The second time we met I was having dinner out with my dad and he had invited Nadia. But he didn’t tell me he invited her. He acted like we randomly ran into her. He surprised me with that. I only found out a few years later that it wasn’t a coincidence! I was excited for my dad to have met Nadia, but I was also like, “Wow, this is even more crazy — now I have four parents.”
Erin: You were an only child for a long time but now you have siblings! Your dad and Nadia have two kids together, right? What’s the best part about having a sister and brother?
Asher: The best part is just having fun with them. They’re young and they look up to me. I can have fun with them even though they’re little. It’s nice having kids at one house. For anyone with new siblings, make sure you take care of them. Always be a good role model and always look out for them.
Erin: You talk about having friends with divorced parents. What do you tell them about getting through it? What advice do you give to them so they can help their parents respond to their needs or confusion?
Asher: When I was in elementary school, all my friend’s parents were still together except for two of them. Those two friends with divorced parents rarely got to see their dad. Now, my friends ask me a little about it, such as what it’s like and how my parents handle it. The advice I give them is to make their parents communicate with one another if possible. Use a kid as conduit, start a text chain with the whole family, or meet in public sometimes to figure stuff out. I would also say that it’s important to spend time with both your parents to not only have better relationships with them but also to make the transition easier. It is really helpful to have good relationships with your parents. Lastly, make sure you’re spending equal time at each house. To keep track, make a calendar or a schedule for going back and forth.
Erin: Any last words of advice for other kids going through a divorce?
Asher: Always talk to your parents. And always let them know how you feel. Make sure they ask you questions about how you are doing and know how you are feeling.