How to deal with your parents’ divorce

by Dawson McAllister

How to deal with your parents' divorce

How to deal with your parents' divorce

Are You Feeling Overwhelmed?

It’s so hard to be honest with ourselves and others about the effects we feel when our parents’ break-up. That is because our parents’ divorce is devastating. We naturally put up walls of denial and silence and keep a certain distance between us and others. Yet, these techniques, in the end, fail us every time. That is why I want to talk about the emotional effects of your parent’s break-up and how to deal with them.

The fact of the matter is that you are an innocent bystander, experiencing a tragedy to those closest to you. You cannot experience this without it having a profound impact on your life. Judith Wallerstein, an expert on the effects of divorce on children said, “Divorce is not just an episode in a child’s life. It’s like a natural disaster that really changes the whole trajectory of a child’s life.”

Ari put it in his own brutally, honest words: “My parents have been divorced since I was five years old; it still affects me today. Through their madness and horrible parenting, I somehow managed to survive. It’s hard, but it is something that we all, as victims of parental divorce, have to do!”

Like Ari, you no doubt have experienced a lot of different emotions as you attempt to cope with the radical changes divorce has brought to your life. For example, Denisse spoke about her rage: “I didn’t want anyone to talk to me about what was going on and I just wanted to be left alone in my pain. I got really angry at my mom for leaving me.”

Whatever you are feeling is normal!

Whatever you are feeling, no matter how horrific, is really normal. It may not be healthy, but it is normal. Yet it can be so hard to talk about those feelings. Even to begin to explain how you feel can be paralyzing. Nonetheless, until you face your pain and put it into words, the pain will continue to haunt you and control you. It is absolutely critical to attempt to describe to yourself and others just how devastated you feel.

Journaling is a great way to begin putting a name on the pain you are experiencing. The following list might help you put words on what you are feeling.

35 Emotions You Might Feel After Your Parents Divorce

As a result of your parent’s divorce you might feel…

  • Shocked
  • Numb – sometimes there is an absence of any emotion
  • Terrified
  • Confused
  • Bewildered
  • Ashamed of yourself because you think you did something wrong.
  • Guilty – like somehow it’s your fault your parents split up.
  • Angry with yourself because you didn’t do things differently.
  • Angry either toward your parents, or just angry in general.
  • Sad – “I can’t believe it’s come to this.”
  • Grieving the loss of being a “normal” family
  • Abandoned by the parent who moved out of the home.
  • Afraid of losing your other parent if one parent already left.
  • Embarrassed – not wanting anyone to know things are going to be different in your family.
  • Disappointed
  • Depressed – like things will never get better
  • Suicidal
  • Worried about what is going to happen to you and who will take care of you.
  • Helpless or Powerless
  • Unloved
  • Pushed-aside
  • Rejected
  • Protective of one or both parents.
  • Responsible for your brothers or sisters.
  • Distrustful
  • Lonely – you feel you don’t have anyone to talk to, BUT remember you can talk to a HopeCoach
  • Hopeless
  • Withdrawn
  • Worthless
  • Distracted
  • Exhausted
  • Unable to sleep
  • It’s difficult to trust God
  • Longing – longing for closure or longing for the way things used to be
  • Relief – if your parents fought a lot or one parent was dangerous

This list might be pretty overwhelming to you. You may even have become aware of feelings you never knew you had. But don’t give up. You can face these emotions and go on, and not just as a survivor, but as an overcomer.

God is With You in this Journey

If you are questioning why God would let this happen, that’s o.k. God can handle your questions. Pray to Him. Tell him how you feel. Ask him to help you day by day. You can also ask others to pray for you and your family at ThePrayerZone.

And remember that God will never abandoned you as you go through this hard time. He’s waiting for you to pray to him for help In the Bible it says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

After journaling it is important to talk to someone safe about how you are are feeling. HopeCoaches are available to talk about the many emotions you may be feeling. You can also comment below about how your parents’ divorce is affecting you today.

TheHopeLine also partners with I Am A Child of Divorce for ongoing online support groups and even more resources.

This free eBook from TheHopeLine may also give you great insights on how to process this journey. Download it now:

Almost 50% of all divorces involve children. The surprising fact here is that children can cope successfully and adjust with divorce within a reasonable period of time. But this adjustment doesn’t come easy. It takes at least a year or two for children to finally settle down with the new family system. The Discovery Channel estimated that 40% of marriages ending in divorce have children involved. Divorces can be ugly, and the effects can be hard on all involved, especially children. Teachers should understand and sympathize with students who come from broken homes.

Children whose parents divorce during their formative years are at a great risk of behavioral issues such as aggression, depression, poor school performance and lower self-esteem.

Teachers can play an important role in helping students going through divorce to make an encouraging correction in their attitudes. This is because childcare centers, preschools and schools all are a part of the child’s network, and can help support healthy child development. Teachers can give students the opportunity to express their thoughts. Allow them to keep a daily journal that only you can read, and ensure them that a journal is a safe place to keep their feelings and thoughts. Journal writing can be very therapeutic, especially for students going through a divorce with their parents.

As a teacher, you should explain to your student that families change with time. Some families get new family members with every birth or adoption of a new child, and others change by moving to new places. The child should understand that change is normal and that it happens with everyone. Always lend your support and guidance. Let students know that they can come to you if they have any problems. Encourage them to be the best that they can be, and honor them in their achievements. But it’s not always easy. Thus, many teacher resources are available online for your help in this regard.

You can take the following steps to ensure that kids from single parents and other broken families are well respected in the class:

Discussion opportunities: provide your students with opportunities to share their feelings. When discussing families, especially as a part of your Social Studies lesson plans, make sure to discuss that there are many types of families. Some families have one parent, some have grandparents, and some live with uncles and aunts. Make teaching diversity a priority in your class.

Words of encouragement: encourage the student to share their feelings. If they like to do so in private, be caring and accepting of their views and thoughts. If a student projects feelings like anger, rejection, sadness and worthlessness, encourage them to seek counseling.

Communicate with parents: try keeping both parents in the loop over your student’s emotional and educational progress. If the non-custodial parent shows an interest in their child’s development, cooperate with them. This will help in creating a supportive link to them for the child.

Maintain structure and routine: because of the divorce, the child has been on an emotional rollercoaster. This can be very tiring and stressful for adults, let alone the children. As a teacher, you need to provide the child some structure and stability by ensuring that schedules are followed and class discipline is maintained at all times.

Keep a boundary: divorce is not an excuse for irresponsible behavior. If given too much of a free hand, students can learn to be manipulative. Set limits for the extent to which you can take their bad behavior. Make sure that your student is well aware of those limits as well.

Education is one area where effects of divorce on children are very noticeable. Even a little change in a child’s behavior can signify issues at home. This is why it becomes very important to keep parents fully involved in the child’s education. There should always be open communication between the school and home.

Divorce is very difficult. Yet children are just children, and need all the help they can get for coping with this dilemma. Remember, the child is sort of losing both parents. One leaves the child and the other changes forever, so neither can be there for the child like they used to.

They say they’re trying to protect me and my brothers during the divorce process, but they’re dragging us into their problems.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have a question? Email her at [email protected]

Dear Therapist,

I am 21, a college student, and the oldest of three boys. My parents have been going through a bitter divorce process for the past two years. They are at each other’s throats in court about financial matters that they refuse to disclose to us, supposedly to “protect us.”

We don’t feel protected though, because they blame each other constantly to us. Oftentimes, they’ll even ask us to mediate between them, sending messages to each other via us.

My mother, whom I’m closer with, says a lot of money is at stake, and if I don’t try to convince my father to settle, it will all be lost. It’s painful enough—the last thing my brothers and I want is to get even more involved. But we want to help. What should we do?

Anonymous
Boston, Mass.

Dear Anonymous,

Your parents are going through a painful experience, but please know that their issues belong to them and not to you or your siblings. Many divorcing parents, like yours, say they want to protect their children but instead end up placing a heavy burden on them—whether that’s oversharing information, disparaging the other parent, or putting their own sense of what feels fair above their children’s best interests when it comes to negotiations such as custody, finances, or where holidays are spent. They have trouble separating what’s happening between them from what their children need.

More in this series

Dear Therapist’s Guide to Dealing With Regret

Dear Therapist’s Guide to Love and Relationships

Dear Therapist’s Guide to Starting Over

But each person in a family is affected by a divorce. Many parents of young children are aware of the toll a divorce can take on a child, and prioritize creating stability for their kids during the process—they might read books on how to help their little one through the divorce, get advice from a pediatrician or therapist, find a helpful therapist for the child, or be more attuned to emotional and behavioral indications that the child is struggling. What many people don’t realize is that teen and adult children can have an especially hard time with their parents’ divorce.

No matter their age, children want to love both of their parents, and that’s especially hard when they’re being forced into the middle of a war between them. When it comes to grown children, many parents—and even children themselves—assume that because they’re older and more independent, they shouldn’t be as affected by a divorce as younger children might be (even though older children can feel just as upset, angry, sad, or confused). As a result, parents don’t do the work of protecting their grown children from a divorce’s nasty edges, and the experience can be additionally painful as a result. To make matters worse, these older children tend to become their parents’ confidants, and whatever feelings they have about the dissolution of their family take a back seat to the overwhelming feelings their parents are experiencing.

So let’s look at how you can take yourself out of that position by talking to both of your parents separately, and by sharing a message that might go something like the following. (I’ll use your mom here for simplicity, but the conversation would be similar with your dad.)

Mom, I know you’re going through a lot with the divorce, but I can’t be the person you talk to about it, because it’s causing me a lot of pain. I love you and Dad, and while nobody’s perfect, I find it profoundly upsetting to hear negative things about either one of you from each other. I know that you both want to protect me, and one way to do so is to help protect my relationships with both of you and let me form my own opinions based on my direct experiences. Even before the divorce, I’ve always gotten different things from each of you—things that I need as your child and as I go through adulthood.

I’d then continue by assuring her that you understand that she’s going through a hard time, that you want to be supportive, but that you don’t want to have to take a side or act as a go-between. You might want to advise her to seek out someone better suited to helping her—an attorney, close friends, a therapist, or members of a divorce-support group. I’d close by telling her why all this matters so much, with something along these lines:

I may be in college, but please remember that I still need you both to be my parents. I’ll need that even when I have my own family—maybe especially then—because I don’t want to be in a situation where I have to figure out how to have my wedding or invite you to my child’s birthday or school play without the two of you ruining the experience. I hope that I’ll always be more important to you than the anger you have with each other. I hope that if I ever need both of you, you’ll be able to work together to be there for me—that while you may have lost your partner, I haven’t lost my parents. I’m not in a position to ask Dad to settle or suggest how he handle conflicts between you—that’s between you two. So from now on, let’s talk about something other than Dad and the divorce, and I’ll leave you two to work things out in private. I want to go back to being a college student, and having a mom I enjoy talking to.

I know this is a tremendously hard conversation to have, because you may feel like you aren’t offering help to someone you love. But that’s not your role here. The truth is that you can’t help your parents through this, and your involvement won’t only compromise your relationship with one or both of them, but it will also affect your ability to set boundaries in relationships to come. In preserving your relationships with your parents, you’ll also be giving yourself important practice for your future.

Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.

When Your Parents Divorce is a guide for children to learn how to better understand the terms and process of divorce. While, at the same time provides therapeutic talking points and an interactive journal exercises to help provide emotional support. Using authentic kid-friendly language and told from a child’s perspective, When Your Parents Divorce provides an excellent to When Your Parents Divorce is a guide for children to learn how to better understand the terms and process of divorce. While, at the same time provides therapeutic talking points and an interactive journal exercises to help provide emotional support. Using authentic kid-friendly language and told from a child’s perspective, When Your Parents Divorce provides an excellent tool for children and parents as they navigate these difficult times. Topics of parent alienation prevention strategies are discussed, and new guidelines are modeled for positive parenting during a divorce. Giving children and parents these helpful strategies and tools for positive communication, reminds everyone to proceed with care during this transitional time.

Building a collaborative and cooperative framework for the new family structure, that promotes flexibility and communication, is key for everyone in the family. It is possible to avoid and even eliminate a great deal of stress and anxiety that a divorce can bring to children by integrating the strategies discussed in When Your Parents Divorce.
In a very special way this book focuses on the very important message that children and parents can get through a divorce, while continuing to be a family. . more

From the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry to the National Institutes of Health, experts agree on the powerful effects of divorce on teenage daughters. This intense upheaval coincides with a time of accelerated growth. As they experience hormonal changes that come with maturity, teen girls are vulnerable both emotionally and physically.

Thus, daughters of divorced parents potentially face great risks. Hence, they need coping skills and support when dealing with the effects of divorce on their well-being and overall sense of security.

Challenges Facing Daughters of Divorced Parents

Research shows that the effects of divorce on teens can be significant. A recent survey of close to 1 million children showed that kids growing up in single-parent homes were more than twice as likely to experience a serious psychiatric disorder, commit or attempt suicide, or develop an alcohol addiction.

In addition, a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that children living with one biological parent were between three and eight times as likely as children living with two biological parents to have experienced one or more of the following:

  • Neighborhood violence
  • Caregiver violence
  • Incarceration of a caregiver
  • Living with a caregiver with a mental illness
  • Having a caregiver with an alcohol or drug problem.

Moreover, research finds that children with divorced parents are more likely to have a weakened relationship with one or both parents. And children of single parents are twice as likely to have emotional and behavioral problems.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

Pregnancy and the Effects of Divorce on Teenage Daughters

One issue that negatively impacts teen daughters after divorce is “father absence.” Thus, research by the National Institutes of Health shows that father absence places teen daughters at particular risk for early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy.

In the study, the researchers found that daughters of divorced parents are highly vulnerable to father absence. Since the vast majority of children continue to reside with their mother after the divorce, father absence is quite common.

Hence, the study found that the rates of teen pregnancy among girls whose fathers were absent were three to eight times higher, depending when in the girls’ life the divorce occurred. Moreover, researchers found more evidence of the effects of father absence on early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy than on other behavioral or mental health problems.

Hence, the divorced mother-daughter relationship is a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to the effects of divorce on teenage daughters. How can mothers in single parent-households post-divorce help to ensure the well-being of their teenage daughters?

Parents and Daughters After Divorce

The powerful effects of divorce on teen daughters are reduced when parents work together. Despite the dissolution of their marriage, they are and will always be parents. Therefore, they can take specific steps to build the self-esteem of teen daughters and reinforce their sense of security.

Four Psychological Engines Intensified by Divorce

Experts suggest that the effects of divorce on teen daughters fall into four distinct areas:

1. Separating from the Family Unit

Losing trust in parents, daughters foster social distance by relying on friends.

2. Taking Greater Chances

Daughters are more willing to experiment and take dangerous risks after divorce.

3. Curiosity and Questionable Information

No longer trusting their parents, daughters rely on questionable sources of information.

4. Autonomy and Opposition

Lacking secure autonomy, daughters assert greater opposition to parental authority.

Although these psychological engines are healthy in the proper context, once intensified by the effects of divorce on teenage daughters, they may become warped.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

How to Protect Daughters of Divorced Parents

As the research shows, divorce threatens teen girls’ sense of security and well-being. Thus, parents need strategies to protect their teenage daughters from the adverse effects of divorce. Although there is no magic formula to reverse the effects of divorce on teen daughters, parents can take steps to reduce the impact.

Six Strategies to Help a Daughter of Divorced Parents

1. Build a teenage daughter’s self-esteem.

Both parents should let their teen daughter know that she is still special and important to them.

2. Avoid turning children into battlegrounds.

Parents must avoid putting their teen daughter at the center of any conflicts that arise.

3. Admit the sadness and difficulty of the divorce.

Divorce is painful for everyone involved. Parents need to recognize and acknowledge this not only to themselves, but also to their children. This can help both parents and teens move toward resolution.

4. Be honest and straightforward about the divorce.

Although often necessary for younger children, sugarcoating financial realities and other challenges doesn’t help with teenagers. They will see through such pretense.

5. Focus on love lasting beyond divorce.

Parents need to let their teen daughter know that they will always love her and be there for her. Divorce will not change this.

6. Access the help of professional therapists and counselors.

Professional therapists and counselors provide a safe space for teen daughters to express themselves. They can find this safe space in either individual or family counseling.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

Effects of Divorce on Teenage Daughters and Everyone Else

In summary, teen daughters are particularly vulnerable to the effects of divorce. But divorce is painful for everyone involved. The question is how to reduce the adverse effects of divorce on all members of the family.

Finally, there is no easy answer. However, following some of the steps outlined above may mitigate the negative impacts. Ultimately, the goal is to protect teenage daughters so they can grow into resilient and healthy young adults.

Photos by Newport Academy, Joel Mott, and Erik McLean from Unsplash.

Child Dev. 2003 May–Jun; 74(3): 801–821.

Linacre Q. 2014 Nov; 81(4): 378–387.

According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.

With so many getting divorced, why does it seem to inspire such feelings of guilt and shame?

How to deal with your parents' divorce

Comedian Louis C.K. hilariously noted this disparity when he pointed out that:

“Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. That would be sad. If two people were married and . they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times.”

In our latest Expert video (which you can see at the top of the page), Senior VP of YourTango Experts Melanie Gorman asked a panel of professional divorce coaches the big question — “Why are we so ashamed of getting divorced?

Our divorce Experts Laura Bonarrigo, Sonja Stribling, Cherie Morris, and Pegotty Cooper discussed the root causes of our societal divorce guilt and debated whether or not they’re actually valid reasons for inspiring such self-critical emotions. (Some are, some aren’t.)

You can watch their full comments in the video, but here are 4 of the experts’ top reasons why, despite everything we know, divorce still fills us with such feelings of shame.

1. Divorce goes against our values.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

This doesn’t mean that divorce is a bad thing (at all). But it’s fair to say that most cultural and religious institutions are NOT big advocators for the benefits of divorce. No religion endorses divorce (though some are softening their attitudes towards it) and most governments incentivize people to get and stay married (through tax breaks and other means).

So, even though nearly half of married couples get divorced, our societal institutions have yet to adopt more open-minded and empathetic attitudes towards divorce. This means that when we make the decision to get divorce, it feels like we’re not being supported by society.

2. Divorce feels like failure.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

And we don’t deal with failure well, do we? Even if it’s done for the best reasons, divorce does, in many ways, represent a broken promise. “We said we’d be together forever and… we’re not.”

In reality, divorce is more like just moving on from an unsatisfying relationship. Things have come to an end, we’re heartbroken, and it’s the healthy choice to try something new. But, because you stood in front of your friends and said “I do,” the whole break-up can feel more like a step backwards than a step forward (even if the opposite is true).

3. Divorce impacts our children.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

This is sometimes the most potent source of divorce-shame — the feeling that, by getting a divorce, you’ve somehow let down your children or deprived them of a loving family.

Often, in these situations, we feel like we didn’t do enough to keep the family together, even though, in reality, it can be much more detrimental for the family in the long run to keep the parents in a dysfunctional relationship.

The key to dealing with this kind of divorce guilt is just showing your children, through your words and actions, that divorce doesn’t have to tear a family apart. Even if you really don’t like your partner anymore, if you keep your divorce civil and professional for your children, you’ll be able to leave the proceedings with your head held high.

4. Divorce isn’t supported by our communities.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

You’d think that people would be used to divorce by now, but, more often than not, our friends and family struggle when it comes to supporting people going through a rough break-up. Divorces makes people uneasy. They don’t know how to offer help.

But how great would it be if our community didn’t automatically have such a negative reaction to divorce? What if their response to hearing that you’re getting a divorce was “Congratulations!” or “How can I help?”

If we can all stop seeing divorce as a cause for embarrassment and instead just start viewing it as a normal transition point in life, we would (hopefully) start supporting each other more and stop treating divorce as shameful thing.

Divorce can be an isolating, confidence-shattering act, but it doesn’t have to be.

More than anything, we should see divorce as an opportunity, as an act of hope.

Getting divorced opens doors to new relationships and possibilities — it shouldn’t be something that causes us shame or guilt. It’s just the start of a new chapter in our lives and, with the support of our family and community, we can feel proud about our decision to take those next steps into the future.

If you’re struggling with a divorce — or just need help getting through the process — please visit the websites of our Expert divorce coaches and contact Sonja, Cherie, Laura, and Pegotty directly. They’re here to help.

Finding out that your parents are divorcing or separating can give rise to many strong emotions. The Mix gives examples of common reactions and how to deal with them.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

“Which emotion is this?”

Here are some of the feelings you may experience:

Shock and disbelief

Even if you’ve long suspected your folks might split, hearing it for real can still hit you hard. You may feel unprepared to handle the emotions that follow, and even try to act like it’s not really happening.

Sort it: Shock is a natural response to a situation when you haven’t had a chance to get your head around things. It will pass, but in the meantime it’s important not to shut yourself away, or put up barriers between you and your parents. Keep the lines of communication open and talk your feelings through. It’s the only way to make sense of them.

Sadness and grief

It has often been suggested that dealing with divorce comes second only to dealing with a death in the family. If one parent leaves home then it can feel as if they’ve gone for good. For some the grief can be just as intense as if they were dealing with bereavement, yet you’re unlikely to get the same kind of sympathy and understanding which comes when someone passes away.

Sort it: In some ways you have suffered a loss, and it’s important to grieve. Crying is a perfectly natural response. It’s a physical way of expressing intense feelings of sadness. In time, however, and with understanding from all involved, things will become more manageable. Just make sure you keep in touch with the absent parent and see them as much as you want.

Anger

Many people report feeling resentful towards their parents once the split is out in the open. It can certainly feel as if they’ve dumped their problems on you, and forced you to confront a situation you didn’t even want to see happening. If this is the case, don’t block out the fact that your mum and dad aren’t separating to make you feel bad, but to make everyone feel better in the long run.

Sort it: An effective way to get anger under control is to find a way of letting a bit of it out. Just as long as no one else gets hurt by anything you say or do. So go ahead, let off steam. You’ll feel better afterwards.

Guilt

It’s natural to look back on the past and feel that somehow you might be responsible. Even though children are never to blame when parents separate, it’s easy to think that had you behaved a little differently they’d still be together.

Sort it: Face facts: if your folks were going to split up, there’s nothing you could have done to stop them. They won’t be separating because of you. Nothing you have done could drive that kind of wedge between your parents.

Relief

If the split puts an end to all the arguments and tension in your house, it’s only natural to be relieved. Don’t feel bad, just seek to understand why you feel this way. Perhaps violence has played a part in the marriage breaking down, in which case one parent leaving will understandably put an end to a great deal of grief and suffering.

Sort it: Relief is often the last thing you’d expect to experience when your parents part company. But if it means you can all set about getting on with your lives then why shouldn’t you feel that the worst is over?

Insecurity

A parental split can often threaten to undermine your own foundations. When the two people you pretty much thought of as one go their separate ways, the future can seem quite uncertain.

Sort it: In many ways your mum and dad’s decision to split will actually bring them both closer to you. Parents are generally aware of how seriously the breakdown of their marriage affects their children. Having been preoccupied with sorting out their own problems, now they will make themselves more available for you. Often it’s this experience which binds you together. They might be ending their marriage, but don’t for a minute think that your parents are splitting from you. If you’re worried about how you’ll fit into the divorce process, read our article on how divorce works.

Photo of stressed boy by volunteer photographer Ollie Pitt.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

Having a deep talk with our children helps us develop strong connections with them. By doing so, we can bridge generation gaps, educate them, and pass our knowledge and wisdom to our offspring. This type of conversation also helps prepare our kids for a turning point in their life. And when informing your kids that their parents are getting a divorce, this must be the main goal of the conversation.

How to Tell Your Kids About a Divorce

As an undergraduate college student, I had a chance to “meet” one really good writing service offering a research paper for sale. The site in question was EssayShark, and I ultimately decided to order my research paper there. The assignment dealt with the psychology of kids whose parents are going through divorce. Most of all in my paper, I remember the quote that the writer employed to argue the harmlessness of a divorce: “Divorce is not such a tragedy. A tragedy would be staying in an unhappy marriage, and teaching your children the wrong things about love. No one ever died from divorce.”

No matter how many years have passed, I still fail to name the person who made that statement. But I did learn something very important from this exceptional saying: when sitting a kid down to a talk, the first thing a divorcing parent has to keep in mind is that under no circumstances should they position the subject of the talk as a calamity. This is the basic and most important cornerstone of a divorce talk with your adult kid. But letting your adult children know that soon their parents won’t be together requires you to consider a lot more than this one aspect. For this reason, I suggest you to look at this broad guide on how to talk to your kids about a divorce.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

Adult Kid Talk vs Little Kid Talk: What Makes Them Differ?

When preparing to tell your adult kid that you are filing for divorce, be sure to note that adults are much harder to deliver such news to than school kids. Given their naivety and lack of experience, small kids process any unpleasant information more easily and carelessly than adults do. With adult kids, it works in quite a different way. Equipped to the perils of adult life, their grown-up minds perceive the news in a more sophisticated and subtle way.

So, while telling your five-year-old son or daughter that “mommy and daddy are going to live in separate houses from now on” may be enough, a twenty-year-old Z-gen kid will most likely scowl at what you just said, craving for the details. Another factor making adult children take the news so painfully is the length of time you and your spouse spent together. You and your spouse have managed to last together for many years, and now you two so abruptly and suddenly split up. Is this not reason enough for your mature kid to get baffled and frustrated? Be certain to consider these factors when thinking about how to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce.

Getting Down to the Talk: Tips and Suggestions

Developing a plan for the conversation with your adult child requires you to follow a whopping number of vital recommendations that basically form your strategy. Now, I urge you to give thought to some proven suggestions as to dealing with adult children when you are about to divorce.

1. Create a unified front.

The subject you’re presenting is itself challenging and bewildering. So, you two should keep away from aggravating the talk by delivering contradictory messages. Try to make one common point in your conversation and stick to a shared message, rather than contending with your soon-to-be ex for supremacy and taking turns to blame each other for ruining your marital union. This will add coherence and clarity to your talk and prevent your kid from swaying between two clashing pleas.

2. Eliminate inappropriate content in your talk.

Make sure to avoid airing the dirty laundry of your relationship. Level-headed as your kids may be, they don’t need to know the distressing details of why your marriage went down the path of destruction. It’s normal that you both hold a tremendous grudge on each other and can hardly keep from blaming your spouse. But be reasonable and avoid letting it go any further than between you two.

3. Let the kids know that the blame is not on them.

Normally, the children of divorcing parents are inclined to blame themselves for the break-up. Take care to assure your kids that they have nothing to do with what happened and the reason why you two grew apart is all about you, the parents. This greatly helps children in dealing with parents’ divorce in adulthood.

4. Don’t tell them that you two still love each other.

Alleviating the situation by telling your kids that you and your spouse still love each other is silly. The main reason underlying every divorce is that the spouses can’t stand each other any longer. Yes, there are occasions when a couple splits up despite the burning unconditional love they share for each other. But the key word here is “split up,” which means that no matter how passionately you are in love with each other, your feelings gave way to other factors that ultimately put an end to your relationship.

5. Be specific and accurate.

Remember to go into detail about what your family will do next and how you two are going to move on with your lives. Talking things through is especially important when it comes to deciding on your living place. It’s a sure thing that you two won’t tolerate each other within one place of residence, and maybe one of you will have to take temporary or permanent shelter at your kids’ place. So, be certain to discuss these matters with your kids, as this is the right way of dealing with adult children when telling them about your divorce.

It’s difficult to pull yourself together when talking about divorcing the person you have kids with. But letting your emotions take over can throw you off and keep you from staying consistent and rational. Furthermore, it can really distress your kids, making them worried about your psychological state.

Conclusion

All things considered, the foremost thing you have to keep in mind when telling adult kids about your divorce is to stay open and sincere, whatever the circumstances are. This experience is extremely unsettling and disturbing, but being straight with your children should be your greatest priority in any case.

Remember that no matter how reasonable and open-minded your kids are, they can become fragile and delicate in light of their parents’ divorce. For this reason, you should be thoughtful and strategic about how you deliver this nerve-racking piece of information.

Finding out that your parents are divorcing or separating can give rise to many strong emotions. The Mix gives examples of common reactions and how to deal with them.

How to deal with your parents' divorce

“Which emotion is this?”

Here are some of the feelings you may experience:

Shock and disbelief

Even if you’ve long suspected your folks might split, hearing it for real can still hit you hard. You may feel unprepared to handle the emotions that follow, and even try to act like it’s not really happening.

Sort it: Shock is a natural response to a situation when you haven’t had a chance to get your head around things. It will pass, but in the meantime it’s important not to shut yourself away, or put up barriers between you and your parents. Keep the lines of communication open and talk your feelings through. It’s the only way to make sense of them.

Sadness and grief

It has often been suggested that dealing with divorce comes second only to dealing with a death in the family. If one parent leaves home then it can feel as if they’ve gone for good. For some the grief can be just as intense as if they were dealing with bereavement, yet you’re unlikely to get the same kind of sympathy and understanding which comes when someone passes away.

Sort it: In some ways you have suffered a loss, and it’s important to grieve. Crying is a perfectly natural response. It’s a physical way of expressing intense feelings of sadness. In time, however, and with understanding from all involved, things will become more manageable. Just make sure you keep in touch with the absent parent and see them as much as you want.

Anger

Many people report feeling resentful towards their parents once the split is out in the open. It can certainly feel as if they’ve dumped their problems on you, and forced you to confront a situation you didn’t even want to see happening. If this is the case, don’t block out the fact that your mum and dad aren’t separating to make you feel bad, but to make everyone feel better in the long run.

Sort it: An effective way to get anger under control is to find a way of letting a bit of it out. Just as long as no one else gets hurt by anything you say or do. So go ahead, let off steam. You’ll feel better afterwards.

Guilt

It’s natural to look back on the past and feel that somehow you might be responsible. Even though children are never to blame when parents separate, it’s easy to think that had you behaved a little differently they’d still be together.

Sort it: Face facts: if your folks were going to split up, there’s nothing you could have done to stop them. They won’t be separating because of you. Nothing you have done could drive that kind of wedge between your parents.

Relief

If the split puts an end to all the arguments and tension in your house, it’s only natural to be relieved. Don’t feel bad, just seek to understand why you feel this way. Perhaps violence has played a part in the marriage breaking down, in which case one parent leaving will understandably put an end to a great deal of grief and suffering.

Sort it: Relief is often the last thing you’d expect to experience when your parents part company. But if it means you can all set about getting on with your lives then why shouldn’t you feel that the worst is over?

Insecurity

A parental split can often threaten to undermine your own foundations. When the two people you pretty much thought of as one go their separate ways, the future can seem quite uncertain.

Sort it: In many ways your mum and dad’s decision to split will actually bring them both closer to you. Parents are generally aware of how seriously the breakdown of their marriage affects their children. Having been preoccupied with sorting out their own problems, now they will make themselves more available for you. Often it’s this experience which binds you together. They might be ending their marriage, but don’t for a minute think that your parents are splitting from you. If you’re worried about how you’ll fit into the divorce process, read our article on how divorce works.

Photo of stressed boy by volunteer photographer Ollie Pitt.