Helping Kids Cope with Separation and Divorce
A “Child” Speaks
“…My parents are going to split up, and it’s all because of my dad. I am a 16 year old depressed teenager trying to live a 30 year olds life. What I am trying to say is, I grew up too fast thanks to everything that goes on here at home…” – From a post on the Divorce Support forums.
My feature for this week was done and ready to post when I visited the forums and read the post from the teenager I quote above. One of the people to respond is a young woman who has been contributing to this site for almost two years now. Her words are important to everyone facing divorce and I quote them below:
“Boy did your words ring true! My parents also split, about a month before I turned 16. (I’m now 20.) I also searched the net for some kind of support for teens in our situation. I also felt like it was all because of my dad. Even though my parents have been legally separated for five years now, they are currently in the process of getting a full divorce, and my mom would like to sell the house within the next few years. (Dad moved out & got an apartment nearby, Mom & my 17-year-old sister still live in the house where I’ve always lived.) Well I’m now in college about five hours away, and I would be really upset if I didn’t have that home to come back to! I too have thought of marriage as a crock of s***, and pretty much still do. Getting married is not one of my hopes for the future either.
I just want to reach out and give you a hug through the computer and let you know that you are not alone!!!
Don’t let anyone make you feel that your parents’ divorce should be any less painful for you just because you weren’t a little kid when it took place. It IS painful for teenagers as much as anyone else. Jeez, picking a college is a big enough deal without having to add the stress of divorce on top of it!
Often you hear how ‘children of separated and divorced parents feel like it’s their fault;’ well, I never felt like I was responsible for the divorce, but I did feel guilty for feeling sooooo hostile toward my father! Funny how the feeling of guilt can get so misplaced. I can’t pretend to know what other people might be thinking or feeling, but… when that other woman saw your pictures, she was seeing the beautiful, smiling, innocent faces of the people she was hurting by carrying on this relationship with your father. So by saying she hates children, I’ll bet she was hating knowing that she had something to feel bad about. The sucky part is that she forced your dad to choose and he made the decision that he made! Ugh!!!!!!!!!!
The next few years will of course be hard. The years surrounding a divorce always are. It’s a particular kind of hard when those years are close to the whole college transition thing. But it would be hard at any time–no more or no less hard than if they divorced than when you were five, or ten, or sixteen, or twenty, or forty-two or any other age! You have a right to be treated fairly. Let your parents know how this makes you feel. I would also advise you to seriously think about counseling–not just with your mom & siblings, but one-on-one as well. And don’t feel like there is anything ‘wrong’ with you by going to one, or by anyone’s making this suggestion to you. I just believe very strongly in the value of it because it helped me go from the lowest emotional point of my life to feeling strong and positive again.
You DON’T have to end up hurt and bitter like your mom, within or without the context of marriage! It used to really tick me off to hear how ‘kids of divorced & separated parents tend to get into more relationship problems later on, blah blah blah.’ I felt like, oh, gee, thanks a lot, I’m now doomed to be a screw-up. But you know what? I don’t look at it as a scar anymore–well, it was sooo painful, but the fact that this happened is not like a weakness on your part or anything. Now I just look at it as personal experience–and personal experience is a valuable thing.
When I tell people I don’t really think I want to get married, sometimes the response is, ‘Oh, well, you just think that because your parents split.’ Well, hello! That is no reason to dismiss anyone else’s viewpoint. Just because some people’s parents might be married, and others’ not anymore, doesn’t mean that their opinions are any more valuable just because their experiences have been more positive. Personal experience is a valuable thing. I think you’re really smart to at least take a second look at the idea of getting married or not (but hey, we’re young, we’ve got plenty of lifetime left to think about such things). It shows that you’re being honest with yourself and how you’re feeling right now–which is something that not enough people seem to be willing to do anymore!
And you know what? EVERY family has its issues. The divorced families and the non-divorced families too.
I’ve posted on this board before–if you’d like to hear my story, check my old messages on this forum, under the topic ‘I’m away at college, parents divorcing back home,’ dated 12/2/98. I’ve also posted on 11/24/99 under the topic ‘Divorce affects older kids too,’ and there you will find a link to another site designed specifically for people like us who were older when our parents divorced.
We kids of divorce have a lot of crap dumped on us but one day you can look back and see your own resilience. That doesn’t make it any less miserable right now, and you may likely be feeling anything BUT resilient. I hope some of this has brought you some small fraction of comfort, amid what is probably the worst thing you’ve ever had to deal with in your life up to this point. I’ve been there too, although I recognize that no two families are alike so I can’t pretend to fully know what you’re feeling–but I can assure you that there ARE other divorce teens like us out there, that you DON’T deserve what is happening to you, that taking good care of yourself IS important right now, and that I am keeping you in my prayers. Hang in there girl!”
Some powerful words, aren’t they?