I Am A Child of Divorce is a proud part of Hope 4 Hurting Kids and we’ve decided to move this article to that page as we continue to build a repository of resources for children of divorce and children and teens who have experienced a variety of other traumatic events in their lives. We hope that you will check it out there!
If your parents are separated or divorced, there is no doubt that you have experienced times of sadness. If left unchecked, that sadness can easily grow into depression, and depression which is not dealt with can sometimes lead people to think about, plan or even attempt to take their own life (suicide). If you are considering suicide, please know that no matter how hopeless things might seem right now, they will get better eventually. And, no matter how much it might seem like no one really cares, someone cares about you because those of here at I Am A Child of Divorce care about you. We are so sorry that you are dealing with so much pain in your life that you have reached this point, and we want to do anything we can to help you.
If you are thinking about suicide, please take the following steps:
- Call a suicide prevention hotline to talk to someone. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will connect you with a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area anytime of day. You can also find an online chat feature at their website which is available from 2:00 PM to 2:00 AM Eastern Standard Time every day. Outside of the United States, check out the International Suicide Hotlines page at Suicide.org for a list of hotlines by country.
- Find a trusted adult that you can talk to. If you’re not comfortable talking to someone in your family, talk to someone from church, a teacher at school, a family friend or some other trusted adult. Let them know that you are hurting so much that you’ve thought about taking your own life.
- Seek professional help, a counselor or therapist can help you to work through the pain you are experiencing. They can’t change your circumstances, but they can help
- If you feel like you may actually attempt suicide, try not to be alone. Having someone with you can reduce the possibility of any impulsive actions.
- Stay away from anything that you might consider using to hurt yourself.
- If none of these options work for you, call 9-1-1 or check yourself into your local emergency room.
Yikes. What a tough question! Divorce is tough, and divorce hurts. There is no doubt about that. Perhaps your parents are in the process of finalizing their split or maybe they’ve already been separated for years. Either way, it is a healthy exercise to look for the positive even in really bad situations, and you will find it beneficial to think about any “good” things that might come have come out of this situation. After all, if life hands you lemons…make lemonade, right?!?
My parents divorced 20 years ago. I was 4 years old at the time. If you asked me then, I would have told you that nothing good can come out of divorce. Looking back though, there were some positive things.
#1 Less Yelling (sort of)
Many times you will find that parents yell a whole lot prior to a divorce. If your parents are going through a divorce or are divorced now, you might look back and realize that the yelling was really kicked up a notch before they split. When parents split up, the level of fighting tends to decrease. In my case, the fighting was replaced with a strange silence that I wasn’t used to, and I enjoyed it. That’s not to say that your parents will never fight after the divorce. Some still do, but if you’ve been living the daily grind of listening to your parents’ never ending arguments, the divorce may give you some much needed peace and quiet.
#2 Learning About Yourself
Let’s face it, if you live part-time at both your mom’s house and your dad’s house, it can be hard on you. Even apart from the emotional baggage that goes along with living in two different homes (and maybe with two different families), there is the practical and organization nightmare of not having all of your stuff in one place. That can be frustrating, in fact “frustrating” might be one of the nicer words you could use to describe it.
Here are some steps that might help ease the practical discomforts of living in two homes. It may not be possible (depending on your living arrangements) to follow all of these, but hopefully they will give you some ideas.
- Don’t live out of suitcases. Unpack your stuff when you get the home you’re headed to. Living out of a suitcase may seem easier, especially if you are only going to be there for a few days, but the process of unpacking your suitcase will help to make each home feel a little more permanent.
- Have a space at each house that’s all yours. Just because you’re not there all the time doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have your own space. Ideally, you will have your own room at each place, but this doesn’t always work out depending on the number of people in your family and the space available. At least have a dresser or a closet or a drawer that is all yours.
- Have some clothes at each house. If you have some essential clothes at each house, you won’t have to worry about leaving all your underwear at mom’s house or all your socks at dad’s house. If you have a favorite pair of jeans or sweatshirt, try to get your parents to buy two of each (one for each house). You don’t need a full wardrobe at both houses, but some essentials are important.
- Keep in touch with the other parent. It’s hard not to miss one parent when you’re at the other parent’s house. Write letters or e-mails, talk on the phone, send a text or talk on Skype to keep up with what’s going on in the other house.
- Bring along some of your favorite things. If you have a hobby like collecting sports cards, reading, building legos or model trains, take along some of your collection so that you can enjoy it at the other house.
- Have certain things at each home. If there are certain toys or activities that you really enjoy (think video game systems or a bike), try to have one at both houses. Remember, it doesn’t have to be exactly the same at each house to work. Maybe you can have a PS3 at one house and an Xbox at the other. (This one might take some convincing, but who knows?!?)
- Keep a calendar. Your parents may have a calendar to keep track of you and your stuff, but keep your own as well. Whether you use paper, an iPhone, or an online calendar like Google, knowing when you are going to be at each house will help you to schedule events and activities with friends and relatives. Ask your parents to keep you updated on any changes in the schedule. If you use a shared calendar like Google, you can let your parents see what you have going on so they can plan around it.
- Make lists. If you keep lists of the most important things that you need to remember, there is less chance that you will find yourself at one house needing something that you left at the other house. If you type those lists up on the computer, you can print out multiple copies and use them every time you go back and forth between homes.
- Talk to your parents. If keeping track of two sets of rules and expectations is getting hard on you, sit down with your parents and try to agree on some basics. If they refuse to sit down together, sit down with each of them separately and try to come to come agreement. It might seem “cool” that the rules aren’t as strict at one house as the other, but in the end you may find life easier if both homes have similar rules and expectations.
Unfortunately, lots of kids each year experience the divorce of their parents. In fact, since 1972 roughly one million kids per year, or more, have seen their parents divorce (sometimes more than once). Forty percent of children under the age of 18 do not live with their married biological (or adoptive) mom and dad (that’s 2 out of every five people under the age of 18).
So, the answer to the question, “Am I the only one going through this?” is no. There are lots of other kids who are also experiencing the divorce of their parents each year. Chances are you have cousins or friends or neighbors or schoolmates whose parents are divorced. Plus, the divorce rate (that is the number of people getting divorced) has been high for years. That means there are also tons of adults out there who went through the divorce of their parents when they are kids. Many of these adults can relate to what you are going through, and have the experience to help you in your own journey.
Divorce brings all kinds of changes into your life. Some changes are obvious. You no longer live in the same house with both your mom and your dad. Maybe you spend most of your time at one parents’ house and visit the other parents’ house every other weekend, or maybe you split your week between two houses. Sometimes one parent moves far away and most of your contact with them will be by phone or e-mail. In some cases, children of divorce don’t see one of their parents very often or at all. There are many other potential changes. You might have moved out of your house following the divorce and live in a brand new house or apartment. Maybe you go to a brand new school or you’re in a living in a new neighborhood or going to a new church.
Some changes in your life are not obvious. Other people probably don’t even notice these types of changes in your life at all, but you probably do. Maybe your family had a special Christmas tradition before the divorce that you no longer get to do. Perhaps you used to sit down every Saturday morning as a family for a pancake breakfast with dad that doesn’t happen anymore since the divorce. Maybe it’s as simple as missing how Dad used to stop by your bedroom door every night and tell you “Sweet Dreams” as you were drifting off to sleep. All of these little things may not seem important by themselves, but they form an important part of what we see as “normal.” We call these little things that you’ve gotten used to rituals and routines and they define what “normal” is to us.
One important things that you can do after a divorce to help things get back to “normal” is to come up with some new rituals and routines to engage in with your family. They may not be the same rituals and routines from before the divorce, but they can be just as fun and with time they will become just as important to you. You’ll need to come up with some rituals and routines that work for you and you family, but here are some suggestions: