It’s Hard to Focus on School Since the Divorce. What Should I Do?

Many children report that they just can’t concentrate on school, or just don’t care, since they found out that their parents are getting a divorce.  Many see a decrease in their grades and test scores, and some take years to “catch back up” if they ever do. If you find yourself in this situation, there are some steps you can take (or you can ask your parents to take) to help.

  • classroomTalk to your teachers, and let them know what is going on in your family if your parents haven’t already done that. Chances are that they care about you, and they will be willing to help you with your work through this difficult time.  Whether it is more attention, more time to complete assignments, extra tutoring or just a listening ear, whatever they are willing to offer can help you both with your school work and with getting back into a pattern. It might not seem like it now, but eventually many aspects of your life (like school) will get back to a normal pattern, and your teachers can help you to get through this difficult time until you get back to that pattern.
  • Find a trusted adult to talk to about your emotions and struggles related to the divorce. When you keep all of that bottled up inside, your brain tends to focus on it leaving little brain power for homework and school.
  • Talk to your friends. If they know what’s going on, they can help you study, give you notes when you “zone out” in a class or need someone to explain something to you.
  • If you’re having trouble concentrating, force yourself to take detailed notes in class (even about those things you already know). If you make this a habit it forces you to concentrate, and as an added benefit, it might help to keep your mind off the divorce for a little while.
  • Tell your parents that you are struggling at school and why. They might not be in a position to help you, but at least they won’t be surprised by it.
  • Try to get homework done as soon as possible. Life is crazy right now, and if you leave your homework to the last second, there is a good chance that something, or someone, will come up that keeps you from getting it done.
  • Get a planner. Let’s face it, you’ve got a lot going on in your life and a lot to keep track of these days. Get a calendar or a planner to keep track of where you need to be and when in addition to your homework.
  • Fund time to be a kid. It’s easy to get so caught up in what’s going on with the divorce that you forget your primary job – to be a kid. It’s ok to take time to have fund and run and play with your friends.  Give your brain a break from worrying about the divorce and it will be in better shape in terms of doing your schoolwork.

What Should I Do If I Am Thinking About Suicide?

suicide-prevention-logo 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.

Is There Anything Good About Divorce?

image description                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

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How Can I Make Living In Two Homes Easier?

imageLet’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.

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Am I The Only One Going Through This?

One in a crowdDivorce is hard, and as a child divorce you may wonder if anyone else understands what you are going through.  Well, the answer is yes…and….no! 

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.

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