My Parents Are Getting Divorced – How Do I Deal?

Dear Heather,

My parents just split up and it really hurts. The situation puts me in a really hard place. My sister, who is 3-years-old, doesn’t understand what’s going on and it’s getting harder and harder not to break down in front of her when she throws a temper tantrum. How do I deal with this? I don’t have anyone to talk to about it and it just feels like my world is crashing down around me and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

I’m so sorry you’re going through this right now. Divorce is a really difficult thing for a family to deal with. What you’re feeling right now is completely understandable – not only are you trying to figure out your own feelings about what is happening, but you’re also trying to stay strong for your sister. That takes a lot of strength!

Honestly, it’s going to take a long time before you feel 100 percent better about this whole ordeal, so please don’t ever be ashamed about being so upset. In these types of things, it’s best to confront your feelings head on rather than push them aside and act like nothing is happening. Yes, it may hurt, but in the end, you’ll be better off.

The most important thing is that you realize that, no matter what, this divorce is not your fault. This is an issue your parents are having with each other. Nothing you said or did caused this to happen, so please don’t ever feel like you could have stopped this. As sad as it is, your parents may just not be right for each other. It sucks to realize, but I don’t want you to ever put this guilt on yourself. You also need to realize that your parents may not ever work things out and get back together. A lot of children with divorced parents hold out hope that they will reconcile. Doing this may just hurt you more in the end if/when it doesn’t happen.

You mentioned that you feel like you have no one to talk to, which isn’t ideal. With everything you’re feeling right now, you need to find someone to open up to. Do you have a close friend you trust who you could talk to? If not, I would strongly consider seeking professional help, whether it’s from a councilor at school or a psychologist. If you’re not comfortable talking to your parents about it, talk to a guidance counselor at school. He or she can help you find the resources you need. It also may help for you to start a private journal, where you can write about how you feel without worrying about anyone passing judgement.

It’s also a good idea to try to distract yourself from what’s going on at home. Try joining a club, getting a part-time job, relying on friends or just focusing more on schoolwork. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you enjoy that will make you happy. The idea is not to push the divorce out of your mind completely, it’s to make sure it’s not the only thing you’re thinking about.

Lastly, please don’t feel like it’s your job to protect your little sister from all of this. That’s a normal reaction for anyone to have, but feeling that way is only going to put more stress on you and make this more difficult. I would definitely encourage spending more time with her (that might make you feel better), but don’t feel like you always have to always act tough around her. It’s your parents job to talk to her on their own and help her through this. And, by the way, it’s the same for you. If you’re really upset, try talking to whichever parent you feel most comfortable with.

Please look for someone to talk to, whether it’s a councilor, a parent, another family member or a friend. Don’t be ashamed to cry once in a while. Try to keep yourself busy. Know that this isn’t your fault. And also, know that while this might be really tough at first, eventually things will get better. I know it’s hard, but with the help of someone you care about, you’ll get through this.

take care,

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