How to cope when your parents separate or divorce
Wednesday 18 July 2012
As Closer reported this week, Demi Moore's children have distanced themselves from their mother since she split from Ashton Kutcher. Demi's children are reported to feel that tough love is the only approach to help their mother, who is barely eating and has extreme mood swings, recover from the split.
Whatever you think of their methods, watching a parent go through a split can be a traumatic experience. While you want to support them, you are also dealing with a change to your home life and if your parent is reacting badly to the split it can be very difficult to help.
If you are dealing with your parents separating then check out our advice on how to support them, and yourself.
Don’t blame yourself
It’s common for children to think their responsible for the break-up of their parent’s marriage. From thinking they’ve done something wrong to feeling they could have done more to stop it, no child should ever be made to feel like they’re to blame. “It's important that you know that you had nothing to do with why they got divorced,”says Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist. “This was about their failure as husband and wife, as partners, not about your failure as their child. Most kids are not told about their parents' divorce in an appropriate way.” Make sure you understand that there was nothing you could have done to stop this from happening.
Don’t feel like you’re stuck in the middle
It is important that you do not feel a loyalty to one of your parents while they’re going through a divorce. It’s not fair for you to have to take sides and you shouldn’t have to choose, so don’t. You and any siblings you might have should feel like you can have a relationship with both of your parents, just on a separate basis. Isolina Ricci, PhD, a family therapist and author of Mom's House, Dad's House, says, "When children are free to love both of their parents without conflict of loyalty, to have access to them both without fear of losing either, they can get on with the totally absorbing business of growing up, on schedule." Stay neutral and you will be glad come the end of it all when you still have a good relationship with both of your parents.
Seek support for the emotional pain
When your parents are going through a divorce, you will no doubt be faced with a conflict of emotions, from anger and sadness, to lack of self-confidence and resentment. You may feel like you don’t want to share your feelings with your parents because they already have a lot to deal with, but it’s only healthy that you have an outlet for your emotions. Stephanie Fast, a certified accomplishment coach, insists that if you’re not taking your parents’ divorce well, which is only to be expected, then it’s important you find the right support for you to get through it. “Divorce is tough stuff. Your ability to be aware of your anger and sadness about your parent’s divorce will increase your ability to have great joy. Seek help through therapy, your spiritual community or divorce care groups. Plan for what's ahead rather than grieve what’s behind.” Or even just confide in a close friend. You might find that simply talking about it helps immensely.
When you find yourself amidst the drama of a divorce, it’s often hard to think into the future to a time when things will be better again. It does get better, and as much of a cliché as it is, time is the best healer in this scenario. It will help for you to focus on goals and ambitions relating to other aspects of your life. Stephanie Fast, a certified accomplishment coach said: “Don’t have hope. Have intentions. Hope waits for something to happen. Intention creates it. You get to choose your own adventure. Young adults especially become empowered when they find a way to make a difference in the world based on their values rather than reacting to what’s around them.” So take a positive out of a negative and turn your life around, says paediatric psychologist Elizabeth Ozer of the University of California, San Francisco: "The divorce of parents is a major life event, and it is something a child will be coping with well into adulthood. Having said that, kids can and do thrive after their parents' divorce.”
Even though divorce can be a tough and testing time for you, your siblings and your parents alike, don’t forget there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Battle through the rough times and you will undoubtedly come out the other end a much stronger and well-rounded person.