There’s a lot to be said about being young when your parents separate. If it happens when you’re a teen chances are you know and understand a lot of what is going on. Or worse, sometimes find yourself in the middle of it.
Dealing with your parents divorcing can be very tough, but here are some things to keep in mind and how to cope…
Realise that it’s not your fault
Irrationally guilt can be something that a lot of children of divorcing parents feel. When something bad happens we often internalise it to try make sense of it, don’t do that.
Your parents divorcing has nothing to do with you. It isn’t because of you or your siblings, or because they “don’t love you enough to stay together” (they love you a lot, that’s never going to change) it’s to do with them and them alone.
It’s okay to feel sad/angry/upset
Being a teen can be hard enough, on the one hand you want to be all grown up and dealing with things like an adult, but at the same time you just don’t really want to deal with the reality of adulting and you’d rather still be a child. That’s even more true if you’re faced with your parents divorcing when you’re a teen; you want to act like you’re fine, but it’s a lot to deal with.
It’s okay to feel sad, angry, upset or even okay with everything. There’s no normal way to handle things, and everyone has a different set of family circumstances. Just take things one day at a time.
If you’re struggling to cope with all of your feelings write it down. Being old-school and taking a pen to paper can very cathartic. You don’t have to show it to anyone, but it can be really good to put your feelings on paper and let them out of your head.
Realise that things will be different, but that’s okay
Yes, your life is going to be different now depending on a lot of things. That may be very upsetting at the moment, but the alternative probably would have been living with two people who are very unhappy and a negative atmosphere at home. Down the road it will be easier to see that it was for the best. It’s probably very hard to see that right now, but trust us ,in time things will sort themselves out and you’ll have a new “normal”.
Don’t Pick Sides
This is easier said than done especially as everyones reason for separating is different and things can be complicated. It can be easy to project blame on a specific parent, or feel like you have to take sides, but try to maintain your relationship with both parents.
It’s an emotional and upsetting time for everyone; if you feel like you’re been forced to pick sides tell your parents that it is upsetting you and that you’re not comfortable being put in the middle of things.
Cut Your Parents Some Slack
If you’ve ever been through a break-up you’ll know how upsetting it can be, so imagine what it’s like for your parents after years together, children, life events…their whole lives basically revolved around each other. So, of course they’re going to be sad/stressed/hurt, but most of all they are going to be worried about you. They haven’t just decided to split on a whim. A lot of thought, time and worrying has probably gone into this decision.
If you have concerns or worries, share them with your parents. After-all, they’re not mind-readers.
It’s Okay To Set Boundaries
It’s hard to get into the nuances of parents separating in one article, but it’s important for me to acknowledge that everyone’s set of circumstances are different. If you’re dealing with a parent who is emotionally or physically abusive to you or other people, things become more difficult and traumatic. If you feel that you need to set whatever boundaries with a parent for your own emotional wellbeing, take some time away from them or cut them out completely, do what you need to do for yourself.
On a very personal note: as someone who dealt with my parents divorcing from a young age, tried to make a relationship with my father work for years and eventually made the decision to cut him out of my life for good 8 years ago for my own mental wellbeing; it was the right decision for me. I’ve never looked back and I never will. You’re not a bad person if you need to do something similar. I hope that if you’re reading this you’re not going through something similar, because it’s horrible at the time, but trust me coming to the other side gives you such peace.
Talk To Your Friends
Some people often feel embarrassed about their parents separating and stress about telling their friends. A few times we’ve had readers write into us with this stress, but your parents separating is nothing to be embarrassed about, it’s just a fact of life. Getting support from your friends at this time is really important, so tell them what’s happening.
A small caveat to this is, don’t over-do it with the ins and outs of your parents separation and their lives. People don’t need to know everything about you and your family life, sometimes its good to be guarded about what you tell some people. Do definitely confide in a few trusted friends, but focus on yourself and your thoughts and feelings without telling very personal things about your parents, especially if there’s a lot happening with their separation. Just think, if it was you would you like people talking about very personal aspects of your life? Most people mean well, but people also talk.
Our advice is to speak with one or two trusted friends. And also speak to any of your friends who’ve gone through a similar experience, you’ll find that they probably had a lot of the same thoughts and emotions as you. With everyone else, keep specific details vague.
Life Does Go On
It’s okay to feel a whole range of emotions. It’s also important to realise that life does still continue. So, try to keep up with your normal routine when it comes to school and activities. Make sure that you still make an effort to spend time with your friends, it will take your mind off of things.
A lot of people have dealt with their parents separating (even Kylie Jenner!), it is hard initially, but you will get through this tough time. It may not seem like it now, but long-term it will be for the best.
If you’re feeling sad, stressed or angry talk to your friends, siblings, parents or a school guidance councillor. There’s also a list of helplines on missy.ie.