How to Cope with Divorce As a Child
Going through a divorce is hard for the whole family. Although your parents made this tough decision, you will notice that it may change everything about your life, too. You may have to move to a new place and leave behind your old friends. Even if you don't have to move, you may have to adjust to having two homes and deal with your parents dating new people. The best way to cope with your parent's divorce is by getting your feelings out. Then, you can try to adjust to your “new normal” and focus on living your life again.
Dealing with Your Feelings
Express your feelings however you need to.Coping with your parent’s divorce brings up many feelings. It is perfectly normal to feel hurt, upset, angry, sad, or confused. Plus, these emotions may change from day to day. Everyone goes through a wide range of emotions during this time. Don’t judge yourself or think that something is wrong with you. There is no right or wrong way to feel.
- You can cry, shout, holler, go silent, etc., as you see fit. Your feelings are real and you need to express them in your own way. If anyone tells you to "man up" or to "grow up", realize such advice is wrong, even if meant well. It is perfectly okay for you to cry, scream into a pillow, or punch your bed if it is your way of letting out your emotions and frustrations.
Avoid unhealthy coping.Make sure to choose healthy coping strategies. You may be tempted to act out in inappropriate ways, such as stealing, fighting, or using drugs and alcohol. But this will not change the reality--these behaviors will only make things worse for you. Be sure to call a friend, go for a walk, or write in your journal instead of engaging in unhealthy activities.
Confide in someone you trust.Talking to someone else can be a great way to express how you feel about the divorce. You may go to a best friend, a sibling, another adult family member, a teacher, or a school counselor. Choose someone who is a good listener and is supportive of your needs.
- You might start the conversation off by saying, “My parents are getting a divorce and I don’t know what to think.”
- Don’t worry if you don’t know what else to say. Just focus on opening up and expressing your feelings as they come.
Talk to kids with divorced parents.What better way to get your feelings out and be heard by someone who understands what you’re going through? If you have a friend or classmate whose parents have gone through a divorce, seek them out. They were new to this thing once, just like you are now. They may have some advice on how to cope with all the new changes.
- Say something along the lines of, “Hey, Craig, I know your parents broke up last year. Mine are going through a divorce now. How did you deal with all this?”
Express your feelings in a constructive way.You might write poetry, songs, stories, or entries in your journal as an outlet for your feelings. You can also use other creative activities to deal you’re your emotions, like painting, drawing, dancing, listening to music, playing with your dog or playing sports.
- Dedicate at least 30 minutes each day to a constructive activity.
Don’t blame yourself.For whatever reason, your parents made this decision, not you. It is not your fault! It was an issue between your parents that caused the divorce, not you or your siblings. The decision is about their own relationship with each other and a belief that they can no longer get along as a couple.
- Remember, they will always be your parents, no matter if they are married or not.
- Don’t try to figure out what happened, and know that you can’t undo it. Instead, focusing on coping with the divorce.
Adjusting to Changes
Ask your parents questions.The aftermath of a divorce involves many changes. Your family may move to a new home or a new city. You may have to divide your time between households, or even go to a new school. Once you have gotten control of your emotions, try to sit down with your parents and ask them about the details.
- For example, you might say, “Where will I live?” or “Who will I live with?” to bring up the topic.
Tell your parents you want to stay out of the bickering.Don’t take sides during your parent's divorce. Your parents may have bitter feelings about one another, but that shouldn’t rub off on you. Even if you happen to hear about one parent’s wrongdoing, try to withhold any judgment. There are a lot of issues between your parents that caused the divorce. It won’t do you any good to throw the blame on one parent.
- If your parents try to pit you against one another, tell them “I won’t be taking sides.” Keep saying this until they get the message.
- Remember, your role is to cope with the divorce, not to resolve disputes between your parents. Your parents will get the support they need to resolve disputes from other adults.
Remember that your parents still love you.A divorce can bring out a lot of ugly actions and words between your parents. If they are distant or upset, recognize that they are trying to deal with their own feelings and cope with the marriage ending. Just because they may not love one another anymore doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
Focus on the positives.It may seem illogical, but sometimes there is a silver lining in a divorce. Some kids may actually feel relieved that the marriage is ending, especially if your parents fought a lot. You might also like the idea of having two homes, establishing new traditions, or being able to have separate time with each of your parents.
- Looking for the positives in the situation can help you maintain perspective and not get lost in your grief.
Anticipate even more changes in the future.In the weeks and months after the initial breakup, many other changes may happen. Your parents may have to go to court to determine who you will live with. You may also notice financial strain in which your parents don’t have as much extra money for you to go to the movies or for pizza with friends. Another possible change is the introduction of new people in your family, such as a stepmom, stepdad, or even a new baby.
- Try to be understanding of these changes. Things may be very tense now, but they probably won’t always be this way.
- Resist the urge to automatically dislike your parents’ new partners. You don’t have to view this person as a parent, and they won’t replace your other parent. But, you can be open-minded and try to get to know them.
Living Your Life After the Divorce
Try to balance your time with both parents.If you’re an older child, your parents may give you some say in how you divide your time between them, particularly if they each live nearby. Do your best to be fair about the amount of time you spend with each parent.
- For instance, if you’re away on vacation with one parent, be sure to call and check in with the other. This helps each of your parents feel loved and maintains your connection with them both.
- It’s also a great idea to keep both parents in the loop about what’s happening in your life. One parent may be in the dark about academic or extracurricular achievements. Be sure to call them up and tell them when something happens, good or bad.
Stay involved in extracurricular activities.The stress of your parent’s divorce may have caused you to rethink your extracurriculars, but you shouldn’t. Playing sports, participating in clubs, and being involved at your school is an important part of your identity. Sticking with these activities can help you cope with other changes and give you something constructive to do.
- Divorces can be hectic, but try to keep the same schedule. If you need to change your schedule, work with your parents to make your new schedule as similar to your old one as possible.
- You should also keep participating in any birthday parties or sleepovers you are invited to.
Make time for hobbies.Having something fun to do in your free time will keep your mind occupied and fight stress. Pick up an old hobby or explore a new one. A hobby can be anything that is positive and constructive. Try doing puzzles, gardening, riding horses, swimming, or volunteering with shelter animals.
Spend time with good friends.Even if you had to move, it’s important for you to stay connected with your peer group. Ask your parents if you can meet up with your friends after school or on weekends. You might even schedule video calls via Skype or Hangouts to see your old friends more often.
See a therapist.Coping with your feelings after a divorce is a major hurdle. You may find yourself still struggling months or years afterwards. If you continue to have trouble getting used to the new arrangements, ask your parents if you can see a counselor.
- You might talk to the counselor at your school or ask a peer who has dealt with divorce for a recommendation.
QuestionI'm graduating from elementary school tomorrow, and both of my divorced parents want me to spend the entire day with them. How do I cope with this?
Clinical Social WorkerClinical Social WorkerExpert AnswerThanks!
QuestionMy parents argue a lot about regretting love, or that it was a mistake. Though they haven't divorced yet, I think that they might. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry to remind them about the good things about their marriage, especially the fact that you came along. Most of all, let them both know how important they are to you, and that you love them.Thanks!
QuestionIs it okay to cry if my parents don't see?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOf course it is okay to cry! If your parents don't like seeing tears, by all means cry away from them. But never feel that it is not okay to cry, that is a myth made up by people who think crying is a form of weakness. That sort of thinking is not healthy. In actual fact, crying is a way of releasing emotions and feeling better again, so let it out and you can begin to work through your feelings.Thanks!
QuestionI think my parents are getting a divorce, but I am not sure. They say things like, "Lets go split the bank account." Are they going to?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWere they arguing when they said this? If they weren't, they were probably just talking about their bank account. Even if they were, that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to divorce. There's no harm in just asking them what's going on.Thanks!
QuestionMy mom never speaks to my dad and every time I hear them talk they're arguing and talking about getting a divorce. My mom has been in a bad mood for the past week. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA divorce is hard (trust me I know), but if it's what your parents need you kind of have to accept it. It will better for them and you will still be able to see both of them. In the meantime, tell both of your parents that you love them and you are there for them. That's probably the best thing you can do.Thanks!
QuestionWhen my dad came home from work, he came into my room and said "goodbye." When I asked him where he was going, he didn't say anything. My parents often argue. Will they get divorced?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMaybe. Or they might just be going through a hard time. The best thing you can do is ask them what's going on. They may not be able to tell you all the specifics, but you deserve to know if it's serious. Ask them. They love you and wouldn't want you to be stressing out about this.Thanks!
QuestionMy friend's parents are divorcing. Her father is the one who provides most of the money for the family. Will he still have to contribute after the divorce?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, when a married couple divorces, the parent that does not have full-custody of the child(ren) must pay child support to the parent who does, especially if the other parent is not gainfully employed.Thanks!
QuestionI caused a fight, and now my mom and dad are divorcing! They hate each other, but I love them. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPeople do not divorce over one fight, and this was not in any way your fault! If your parents are divorcing, they likely have been having problems in their marriage for a long time, even if you didn't see it. Remember that you are the most important thing in the world to your parents! Even if your parents don't love each other anymore, they still love you and always will, and you will still get to spend plenty of time with each of them.Thanks!
QuestionIs it all right to still love my parent even though he is acting badly and he ruined my birthday?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOf course. There's never anything wrong with loving your parents, or anyone. You can get mad at them or acknowledge that they did something wrong while still loving them.Thanks!
QuestionWhat can I do if my parents are lying about why the divorce happened?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on who they are lying to. If they are lying to you, it would probably be best to say that you know the truth, and would rather they stopped lying about it to you, unless speaking plainly would get you into trouble. If they are lying to other people or to each other, there isn't much you can do other than to be supportive of the good you see in each parent. They need to sort out their own complicated issues. Focus on moving forward with each parent and taking care of yourself.Thanks!
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