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.
You may have noticed that we are now offering advertising space on I Am A Child of Divorce. As this marks a change in how we have done things in this past, it seemed appropriate to take a second to explain why we are now offering advertising space on the site.
I Am A Child of Divorce is a labor of love. No one associated with the site is paid for their work on the site. All time and resources to this point have been donated to the site in order to keep it up and running. As the site has grown, more resources are required to keep it running smoothly. Particularly as our support groups grow, we will need bigger and faster servers in order to run those groups. The advertisements on this site will help to subsidize those expenses.
What types of advertising?
Honestly, we are not sure who will request to advertise on this site. We will take steps to ensure, however, that no products which support divorce itself advertise on the site. You won’t see adds for lawyers, etc. It is possible that people who seek to make the process easier for children of divorce or single parents might advertise on the site. We believe that this is consistent with our mission and will consider these on a case by case basis. We love our advertisers because they will help to ensure the continuity of I Am A Child of Divorce. However, we believe that our first responsibility lies with the users of this site, and we will keep that in mind in approving advertisers.
Divorce is hard. When your parents split up (either by divorce or moving out or whatever your circumstance might be) you will face all kinds of challenges and new and intense emotions. The worse thing you can do is try to deal with it all yourself. This is now a burden that you brought upon yourself, and you shouldn’t have to deal with the fall out all by yourself either.
So, who should you turn to? In most tough situations in life, people will suggest that you turn to your parents, and in the midst of a divorce or separation it is important that you keep talking to them. Unfortunately, many times parents are not really available to help. They’re with too busy with their own lives or emotionally unavailable because of what they are going through in terms of the separation. Even if your parents are trying their hardest, there is a good chance that turning to them to share your emotions and frustrations isn’t really an option.
So, what about your friends? Chances are that you have friends who have also been through the separation of their parents. These friends can be a valuable resource for information or comfort or just a listening ear. A good friend can be a lifeline of sorts when you are dealing with tough times, and you are lucky if you have a friend like that. Many do not, or you are too embarrassed or reluctant to share all the intimate details of what’s going on in your family life. Or maybe you do have a friend like that, and it’s great to be able to talk to them, but they’re not particularly good about giving advice.
Perhaps you could try talking to a trusted adult or relative? If you can find an adult whom you trust to talk to and share what you’re going through with, that is an amazing gift. Many children of divorce have been helped immeasurably by an aunt and uncle, grandparent or family friend. Sometimes, though, people are reluctant to talk to you because they don’t want to be seen as taking sides or because they just don’t know what to say. You may need to pick an adult that you trust and ask them if it would be ok if you talk to them about what’s been going on in your life.
There are other options that may be even easier. There are groups available that will help you to process the emotions you are feeling and the things you are living through. Many of these groups bring together other people in similar experience along with someone to help lead the group to provide tools and insight into what you are going through. Such groups can help you to move from the pain and turmoil that you may currently be feeling to hope and healing. Look for a The Big D: Divorce Through the Eyes of a Teenager group in your area and sign up. If you don’t have a local group, or you prefer something a little different than a face-to-face group, we offer free online support groups for teens here on I Am A Child of Divorce. This 16 week program is conducted entirely online and will provide you with tools and advice on how to deal with your parents divorce/separation by engaging with a group of other teens in similar situations and an adult facilitator who is there to help.
Registration is now open for our online teen support group scheduled to begin in early August 2013.
This 16 week course is conducted entirely online with the help of a facilitator who review materials and coordinates the weekly online chat sessions. Each week, we will tackle one are of interest to teens whose parents have separated or divorced. This new program is entirely free and is designed to help teens find hope and healing as they navigate the complexity of their changing family. We will cover topics including:
- Sharing Your Story
- The Basics of Divorce
- Drowning In Emotions
- What Is Grief?
- Dealing With Anger
- Feelings of Guilt
- Overwhelmed By Stress
- They’re Still Your Parents
- All About Change
- Stuff I Hate
- Siblings and Responsibilities
- Avoiding Destructive Behaviors
- Money! Money! Money!
- The Rest of My Life
- God and Divorce
- Moving Forward
For more information on our groups, please visit our Groups Page where you will find a link to Register, a video with information about the program and a flier you can use to help us promote the group. You can also find a link to the complete schedule for the August class on that page. Make sure you register today as spaces are limited and are available on a first come first serve basis.
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.
Teen Between is a resource out of Ireland designed to help teens from divorcing families and to help parents and schools to help teens through the divorce process. Teen Between offers in person counseling services all around the country of Ireland. They also have an amazing website for teens dealing with the separation or divorce of their parents.
In the teen section, you will find articles and advice on how to deal with:
Many of the sections include specific tips and links to stories from other teens who have been through the divorce of their parents. The teen section also includes a quiz which will give you insights into how you communicate when you are angry.
If you are wondering if your parents’ divorce or separation is your fault, you are not alone. Most children of divorce at some point believe that their parents’ split up had something to do with them. Maybe you think if you had behaved better they would still be together. Perhaps you wonder if you weren’t involved in so many extra-curricular activities if they wouldn’t fight so much and would still be together. Maybe something happened on the day your parents told you about the split, and you’re convinced that what you did that day caused them to split up. Regardless of why you think you caused your parents’ divorce, there is one thing that you need to know for certain:
CHILDREN DO NOT CAUSE DIVORCES, ADULTS DO!
In other words:
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!!!
From MU Extension at the University of Missouri-Columbia, this resource specifically addresses how divorce impacts infants and toddlers. Too many people believe that divorce does not impact these kids because they are young. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Beginning with younger infants (birth to 8 months), this article explains that, “Infants do not understand divorce However, infants pick up on changes in their parents’ feelings and behaviors.”
The article also explains the reactions of older infants (8 to 18 months) and toddlers (18 months to 3 years) and includes special sections to address:
- Parent-child attachment relationships and divorce
- Encouraging infants and toddlers to express emotions
- Reducing the stress of divorce for infants and toddlers
LINK TO RESOURCE:
The resource covers four key elements which drive a successful family-school relationship:
For each element, this article explains how it applies to divorced and single-parent families and provides teachers with useful and practical advice on how to incorporate families in the educational life of their kids following a divorce or separation.
LINK TO RESOURCE: http://extension.missouri.edu/p/GH6611