When people get divorced, relationships suffer. Obviously, you parents’ relationship is different, but it can also hurt your relationship with one or both parents. In some extreme circumstances, a parent may decide they don’t really want anything to do with you anymore. They can do this by their actions (spending little time with you) or come right out and and say it. The relationship suffers or dies because one of your parents isn’t interested in investing the time in having a relationship with you. This is unfortunate (tragic even), and you don’t deserve it, but if you do find yourself with a parent who doesn’t really seem to want to spend any time with you, you have to tackle that issue before we discuss ways of staying in touch.
You can’t make your parent want to spend the time with you that you might want to spend with them. Should they want to spend time with you? Yes. Is it unfair that they are no longer acting like a parent? Yes. Is it your fault that they don’t want to spend time with you? Absolutely not! Here are some things you need to remember and try if you find yourself with a parent who “just doesn’t have time for you:”
Be realistic. Is it true that they aren’t spending any time with you, or is it just the case that they aren’t spending as much time with you as you would like. Many times after a divorce, schedules get hectic and parents end up working longer hours and running around more. The lack of time may be the result of that, and they may be missing spending time with you as much as you are missing spending it with them. In that case, hang in there. Explain to them that you miss spending time with them and wait for this season to pass. Try not to let the current distance harm your future relationship.
Don’t blame yourself. You can’t change your parents. You didn’t make them the way they are, and you can’t make them switch. You can ask, but you can’t snap your fingers and make it happen. Understand that their decision not to spend more time with you is exactly that – THEIR DECISION. It is not a reflection on you as a person or as a son or daughter. Do not take the blame for someone else’s decision.
Accept the fact that you can’t make your parent(s) change. Your Mom or Dad may never be the kind of Mom or Dad you want or feel like you deserve. You might never have the relationship with your parent that you feel like you should have. This isn’t as easy as it might sound, but once you finally accept this as true, you can spend your time trying to forge whatever kind of relationship you can based on who your parent is rather than who you want them to be. It also allows you to move yourself from being captive to an ideal to free to go on and become the person you want to be (something you do have some control over).
Talk to your parent. What seems very obvious to you (that they aren’t spending enough time with you) might not even be on their radar. What’s the worse that can happen – they could confirm what you already believe (that they don’t want to spend time with you). That will hurt, but at least it will be out there on the table!
Give it time. Just because your parent doesn’t seem interested today doesn’t mean that it will never change. Hopefully they will come to their senses and want to reverse the current trend. They may even come to the realization that they have hurt you and work to make up for that. You can’t make it happen (see #3 above) and you need to accept the current state of things, but that doesn’t mean that you have to abandon all hope. People change. Sometimes it is for the worse, but many times it is for the better.
Find a trusted adult you can talk to. You won’t be able to replace your “missing” parent, and you shouldn’t try, but it’s important that you have adults in your life that you trust who can help you with things that your distant parent should be doing. It might be an aunt or an uncle, a family friends or someone from your church, but on the lookout for someone you can talk to and learn from.
Many times when people get divorced, one or both or the parties to the divorce move. It may be just down the street, or across town or to another city entirely. Maybe your Dad lives in another state or Mom has moved to an entirely different country. What can you do to maintain a relationship with a parent who no longer lives close by?
This can be a tough situation, and it can be hard to stay in contact because of distance and time constraints. There are some things you can do in those circumstances however to make sure that you still maintain a relationship with your distant parent. So, what can you do to stay in touch with a parent when you don’t get to speak with them or see much if at all? Here are some ideas:
Introduce your distant parent to new technology. In these days of instant communication, you don’t have to see your parent face-to-face to communicate with them. Apps like Facetime and Skype allow almost anyone to video conference these days, and there is no reason you can’t see your parent and talk to them using these great programs. Texting, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all allow you to share what is going on in your life and allow your parent to do the same. There are apps for other devices like iPods and Tablets that allow you to text even if you don’t have a cellular connection.
Write letters. From new high tech gadgets to old school, there is still something special about a handwritten letter. Pour your heart out, or just let your parent know what is going on in your life. A handwritten letter is just more personal than a message on a smart phone.
Record videos and send them to your parent. They might not be able to be at your school recital or soccer game, but there’s no reason they can’t experience some of it. Make a little video, even if it’s just a short Vine or Intagram video, and send it to them. Ask them to video themselves and send it back to you.
Send personal things back and forth. If you created a work of art in school, or in your spare time, send it to your parent. If they go on a business trip, ask them to get you something and send it to you. Make a “treasure box” that you can send back and forth.
Keep a journal. One reason that proximity helps to build relationships is because you get to share mutual experiences. You can’t do that if your parent lives hours away, but if you keep a journal of things you want to let your parent know, or exciting things you want to share with them, you can make sure that they don’t miss out entirely on the important moments of your life. Consider keeping two journals, you write in one one month and your parent writes in the other, then you swap them (by mail) and you get to read your parents’ journal for the last month and record your thoughts in that one.
Schedule a regular trip. Just because you can’t see your parent as much as you would like doesn’t mean you can’t schedule regular trips to see them whether you go there or they come to see you. Even if it’s only once or twice a year, talk to your parents about putting something on the calendar so you have that time to look forward to.
If you ever wonder if it’s ok to love both of your parents after a divorce or separation, the answer to this question is simple:
You absolutely have the right to love both of your parents no matter what happened in their relationship with one another.
Sometimes the fact that you love one parent might make things uncomfortable for the other parent, and other times you might feel like the fact that you love your Dad makes your Mom mad or vice-versa. Unfortunately, you might be right. Especially when parents have gotten a divorce, one or both parents may harbor resentment and anger towards the other parent. They might even try to influence you to feel the same way they do about your other parent. What they are doing isn’t fair to you, but it is likely the result of the frustration and stress that they are feeling. Unfortunately, parents are human beings too, and even parents make mistakes.
One fundamental right that every child from a divorced or separated home should have is the freedom to love both parents. If you are in a situation where one parent is making that hard or uncomfortable, there are some things you can do to try to make the situation better:
Remember that they are still your parents, and even though they might not be right about this situation, you need to show them respect. They might not deserve it, but that shouldn’t keep you from showing it.
Talk to the parent who you feel is hindering your ability to love the other parent and tell them how you are feeling. Explain, as specifically as possible, what they are doing that makes you feel like they don’t want you to love the other parent.
Explain in a calm and respectful way that you did not choose, nor did you have a say in, what happened between your parents and you shouldn’t be asked to picked sides or favor one parent over the other.
If one parent starts to blame the other parent for what has happened to your family, remind that parent that you aren’t happy about what has happened either but that doesn’t mean that you don’t still love your mom or dad. Remind them that they still love you even when you make mistakes and you feel the same way about them.
Reassure your parent that just because you love your other parent doesn’t mean that you love them any less. Remember that your parents are probably hurting too, and you can reassure them by showing love to them as well.
When your parents separate or divorce, it is a very hard time. However, sometimes it is even harder when your parents remarry. The world of stepmothers, stepfathers, stepsiblings and half-siblings can be a tough road to navigate and raises a whole host of issues that you will be forced to deal with. Many times, children and teens find that they don’t care for their parent(s) new partner, and the step-family dynamic becomes difficult if not impossible to deal with.
However, there are cases where kids and teens find they really get along with their parent’s new partner. Generally, this should make the transition easier, but not always! Sometimes the other parent resents the new relationship you have formed with your other parent’s new wife/husband and holds it against you. Sometimes they will even tell you that you are betraying them by befriending their ex’s (your other parent’s) new spouse. This puts you in a terrible position, and unfortunately it happens more often than you might think.
So, what should you do if you like your parent’s new spouse and your mom/dad is making your life miserable because of it? Here are some ideas:
First, understand and accept that you have the right to love both of your parents and the right to get along with your parents’ new spouses if you choose to do that. Your parents should not put you in a position where you feel like you have to choose between one parent and the other or between one of your parents and another parent’s new spouse. It is possible to have relationships with all of them, and ultimately it is up to you parents to understand and accept this. That said, there are some steps you can take to help your parents see the situation more clearly and hopefully adjust to it better so that you are not caught in the middle.
Try to understand what your parent is going through. They should not be acting that way, and you don’t have to accept their behavior, but do your best to try to think about the situation from their perspective. If you can understand the pain and the hurt and the fear that they are feeling, you may be able to approach the situation in a more effective way. For example, if their dislike of your new relationship with the other step-parent is driven by fear that they may lose you, you can reassure them that just because you get along with your new step-mom (for example), that she will always be your mother and you don’t love her any less.
Have an honest an open conversation with the parent who is having trouble with your relationship with the new stepparent. Try to keep the conversation as unemotional as possible. If you can’t have the conversation without arguing and fighting, consider sending your parent an e-mail or a letter instead. Explain to them that just because you have a new relationship with your stepparent does not mean that you are replacing them. Explain how they make you feel when they question your loyalty or put down your stepparent. Explain that your relationship with the stepparent is different than your relationship with them and the fact that you have a formed a good relationship with them has made your life better/easier after the divorce.
Keep the details to yourself. You should never feel like you have to keep secrets from either of your parents, but it is possible to hold back on sharing all of the details with a parent is struggling to accept your new relationship with your stepparent. If you had a great vacation with your dad and step-mom, by all means, tell your mom about your vacation, but don’t feel like you have to share about how you and your step-mom stayed up until 3:00 AM one morning just laughing and sharing stories.
Never ever compare your parent to your stepparent. Comments like, “You’re not as nice as my new mom (step-mom)” cut like a knife and are just as cruel to your mom as her accusing you of being disloyal.
Give it time. Just like it may have taken you time to finally forge a good relationship with your new stepparent, it may take your mom or dad time to get used to the idea of you having a new “parent figure” in your life.
When your parents split up it’s hard. There are tons of changes that happen in your life, and you may never really get used to the idea though you will likely adapt to your new life eventually. One thing that makes the process even harder though is when you parents start to date other people. When your Mom starts dating other guys or your Dad starts dating other women, it’s hard to get past the initial “ick” factor” let alone learn to cope with the whole dating thing. That’s why so many kids try to keep their parents from dating at all. For more on that, check out “How Can I Keep My Parents From Dating After Divorce?”
Assuming you couldn’t stop them from dating, and most kids can not, you may be wondering what you can do to help make the situation easier or better. Here are some tips:
Try not to compare your parents’ new dating interest to your other parent. If your Dad is dating someone new, don’t spend time constantly trying to figure out how she is or isn’t like you Mom. Same thing if your Mom is dating someone new. Try not to compare them to, or judge them, based on your Dad.
Remember that no matter what happens with your parents’ new dating relationships, no one will ever replace your mom and dad. You may have additional grown ups in your life, but you only have one mom and one dad.
Don’t determine that you will not get along with your parents’ new dating partner. Don’t hold your parents’ divorce against them. They may be a very nice person. It’s ok to like them, and it’s easier when you’re not looking for them to be a replacement mom or dad. Liking your parents’ new boyfriend or girlfriend does not mean that you are betraying your other parent.
Speak to them like you would any other adult (perhaps the parent of one of your friends, or a teacher at school or church). You may not like that your Mom or Dad is dating them, but that doesn’t give you the right to be disrespectful. Remember the Golden Rule and apply it to them like you would anyone else – “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
Don’t bad mouth the new people in your parents’ lives to the other parent. That isn’t your role and will only serve to make the tension between your parents worse.
Spend time with your mom or dad away from their new relationship. Remind them, in a nice way, that you still want some time alone with them and ask if they would be willing to do that with you.
If your parents’ new dating interest makes you feel unsafe let your parent know that. If they do anything inappropriate, report it to proper authorities immediately. If you don’t know where to report it, talk to someone at school or church who can likely help you (a counselor, minister or teacher).
Find someone you trust to share what you are going through. Make sure that it is someone who is willing to tell you if you are being unreasonable or are wrong. It doesn’t do you, or anyone else, any good to only talk with people who are going to “side with” you no matter what.
Give it time. All relationships take time to develop and grow. Whatever relationship you might have with your parents dating partners will also take time to develop. Don’t write them off right away, and don’t be discouraged because you are not instant best friends.
Following the divorce or separation of your parents, your relationship with them may feel distant or strained. It may be the case that you have been angry with them and have intentionally avoided them causing your relationship to suffer. They might be busy with adjusting to a new life away from your other parent and not be spending time with you. You may both be avoiding one another because you don’t know what to say, or maybe you’re afraid that you’ll hurt your parents’ feelings if you tell them what you’re really thinking.
Whether you admit it or not, most children instinctively desire to protect their parents. No matter how wrong you might think they were to get divorced in the first place, you may be reluctant to share the emotions and troubles you have for fear of making things worse for them.
On the other hand, if your parents are divorced or separated, you are likely experiencing some emotions you have never felt before or never felt quite this intensely. Many of the articles and resources on this site are designed to help you process those emotions and understand and deal with them better.
That said, you still need someone to talk to about your emotions. Just the process of naming your emotions and talking about your struggles is an important first step in overcoming them. The person you talk to may be a friend or a trusted adult, but sometimes the person you really need to talk to is your parent. It may be scary or uncomfortable, but in the long-term you will both benefit from having the conversation.
Here are some guidelines for how to talk to your parents about emotions or other things that may be bothering you: