Divorce is overwhelming. There’s no perfect approach when it comes to informing friends, family, and especially your children about your divorce. And children are not always vocal when it comes to expressing how they feel.
Every child has a different way of processing their parent’s news. And, of course, how a child will respond to their parent’s split varies depending on age.
However, even as a 19-year-old child of divorce, there are some things I wish I had been confident enough to tell my parents upfront. Whether I wished they had handled it differently, appreciated their approach, or simply wanted to vocalize my own thoughts, there were always things I wanted my parents to know but was too afraid to say.
Don’t always argue in front of me.
I get it. You guys are going through a lot. But so am I. I understand that there’s a conflict between the two of you. But I don’t want to live in it. It gets exhausting, especially when the argument involves me. When you fight about me, it makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong, even if I’m not. So, if you are having a serious argument, try and do it somewhere private.
Although I don’t want to witness every fight, try your best not to hide everything from me. I have an endless imagination, and I’m quick to assume that silence means secrets are being kept from me. Maintain an age appropriate balance. Don’t shield me from everything, but don’t expose me to every problem.
Life isn’t picture perfect. Just please try to not entertain every argument in my presence, as it can become burdensome on my end.
I’m here to listen…to an extent.
I want you both to be honest about the situation. I want to know what happened and why it did. So, try and provide me with a sense of closure without upsetting me. When you’re sharing your story, remember you’re talking about my other parent. I’d like to hear something along the lines of “your father and I were no longer happy in our marriage because trust was broken.” I don’t want to hear that “Dad’s a cheating scumbag who destroyed the foundation of our family.” Draw a line and keep it simple. I’ll be thankful you did—I promise.
Please be on the same page when it comes to parenting me.
I know you may not be married anymore, but I’m still a child to both of you. Please communicate with each other and try your best to “co-parent.” It can become confusing if one of you lets me do something that the other doesn’t.
Develop one set of rules that I can follow whether I’m with Mom or with Dad. Because, if Dad allows dessert after every meal, and Mom only allows it twice a week, I’m no doubt going to want to eat dinner at Dad’s more often. And if Mom lets me stay out super late and Dad has a strict 9 pm curfew, then obviously I’ll just sleep at Mom’s every weekend. Choices aren’t made because I like Mom or dad more than the other, but because the rules are different. That’s why it’s so important to reach a mutual agreement when it comes to my rules. Dad shouldn’t allow something Mom does not and vice versa. This will make life simpler for all of us.
Don’t make me your middle man for communication.
Please try your best to communicate your problems with each other directly. Don’t put me in an awkward position by asking me to tell Dad to respond to your lawyer’s email, or to stop sending you insensitive text messages, or to put money in your joint account so you can buy me groceries. I don’t like being put in a position where I have to choose sides. And remember that I may not feel comfortable passing on a message like so. I’m your child, not your mediator. Try not to forget that.
Don’t assume that I will love every new person you date.
There’s nothing wrong with dating new people. Of course, it’s going to be weird for me at first. Remember, I’m not used to either of you bringing home new people. I understand that I’m not going to instantly become comfortable and close with this new person. Quite frankly, I will probably hold a grudge at first. They are not my Mom, and they are not my Dad. So, please make sure they don’t act like my parents. That’s a job only you should be in control of.
Instead, have that new person give me space initially. Once I’m comfortable enough to open up to them, then have them attempt to open up to me. But remind them not to try too hard.
Please stay involved in my life.
I know we all have some adjusting to do, and we will all cope with the divorce in different ways. But don’t abandon me. I need a Mom, and I need a Dad. Please call me, chat with me, and ask me plenty of questions. It may be hard for me to answer all of them, but it feels good knowing you want to know how I’m doing.
Dads, especially, need to step up and make sure they stay involved in our lives, as much or more than they did while married. That means making hard choices. But choices that are worth keeping me in your life.
I’m aware I won’t see both of you as often as I had before, but I still want to see you as much as you can. I feel unimportant, sad, and sometimes unloved when you don’t stay involved. So, keep up with my life and what I have going on day to day. And I’ll do my best to keep up with yours.
I am always here for you.
Know that I’m going to feel all sorts of things. I may be sad, mad, confused or even mute for a while. Everyone copes with divorce differently. But regardless of how I react, your happiness is so important to me. You have spent your whole life raising me to be the best I can be. You’ve supported me like no other—and I am here to do the same.
You don’t need to feel guilty because of the decisions you needed to make. It’s hard for me, but often harder for you, so just know I don’t blame you. This can be a difficult thing for me to vocalize. I never know exactly how to tell you both how much I appreciate you, and I haven’t been in many positions where I’m the one comforting you in a time of chaos. I mean, I’m just a kid. But I do think about how you’re feeling every single day, and I want you to know that I’ll always love and support you, even in a time as hard as this.