You may hear these questions from your children regarding their parents divorce. Knowing the right way to respond is critical to helping your children adjust to their new situation.
Why Does Divorce Happen?
Divorce happens when a husband and wife decide they no longer want to be married to each other. They also do not want to live together. They may have grown apart, they may fight a lot, they may feel that the love they had has changed. By signing legal papers they both become single again. This is not an easy decision for them. Sometimes they just decide that they cannot fix their problems and divorce is best. Sometimes both parents want the divorce, sometimes only one.
What Did I Do Wrong?
Moms and dads do not divorce their kids. They divorce each other. Many kids think that they are the reason their mom and dad are getting a divorce. It is not your fault that your parents have decided to get a divorce. Nothing you have done, bad grades, misbehaving, not getting along with your brother or sister, or anything else, has caused them to want to end their marriage. Divorce is between adults only, not kids. There is nothing you could have done to prevent their divorce. Your mom and dad still love you, even if they no longer love each other.
What Can I Do To Get Them Back Together?
Just as kids do not cause moms and dads to get a divorce, kids cannot cause them to get back together. Getting better grades, getting along with your brother or sister, helping around the house are all very nice things to do, but they will not get Mom and Dad back together. Likewise, bad behavior will not make the problem go away either. You cannot influence your parent’s decision to end their marriage. Divorce is decided by adults and is a final decision.
What Should I Do When It Feels Really Bad?
There will be a lot of changes in your life, and feelings of anger, sadness and fear are very normal. In most cases, time will help you feel better. While things will never be as they were before the divorce, as time passes you will begin to start to feel better. When things are feeling very bad, never take your feelings out on others and hurt them. There are many things you can do:
- Pile up some pillows and punch them as hard as you can.
- Go on a run (with your parents permission) and run as hard as you can.
- Ask a friend to throw you some baseballs so you can hit as hard as you can.
- Pile up some empty boxes and kick them.
- Draw some pictures describing how you are feeling.
Most importantly, you have many people you can talk to. Keeping things inside may make you feel more grouchy and mad. Think about talking to your mom, your dad, your brother or sister. How about an aunt, uncle, grandparent? Maybe you have a friend who is a very good listener. How about a teacher or a counselor at school?
If talking is too difficult, think about writing a letter or drawing a picture. There are also many booksyou can read to help you feel better.
If you are having a lot of trouble concentrating, paying attention and focusing on things like school work or extracurricular activities you should definitely find someone to talk to. While it can be hard to talk, it can really help.
What If I Have To Go To Court?
The good news is that kids rarely have to go to court. Instead, a court appointed expert, such as a “special advocate” will come talk to you. In those situations, you will be given a chance to express your feelings, including where you want to live, if that is something you really want to tell them. If you must go to court, you may be able to talk to the judge in his or her private office, called “chambers.” If you have to go to court everyone will do their best to make it as simple and comfortable as possible.
What Will It Be Like After the Divorce?
The biggest change you will probably notice is your home. Most kids live with only one parent at a time. Some kids live with only one parent, others live with both and others live mostly with one and visit the other. Sometimes one parent lives near, and sometimes very far away. Each situation will be very different and strange for you, but with time it will get easier. Visiting your other parent can be fun. You get some time away from your house. Having two houses can be fun too. Sometimes kids enjoy having two separate rooms, two sets of friends, and two different pets. You have two homes where someone loves you. The most important thing to understand is that the parent that is not there is STILL your mom or dad. They love you no matter where they are, and that will never change.
What If They Say Things That Make Me Uncomfortable?
If your parents are arguing a lot around you you may be uncomfortable. Try talking to them. Try writing them a letter or drawing them a picture. Try saying something like, “When I hear you fighting I feel sad and afraid.”
It can be very uncomfortable when one parent talks badly about the other parent to their kids. Try talking to that parent and asking them to stop. Say something like, “When I hear you talking badly about Dad (or Mom) it makes me very sad. I do not like it.”
Most importantly, talk to your parents, a counselor, relatives or friends about your feelings. Sometimes when they know how you feel, they can help you get through it.
What If They Start Dating or Get Re-Married?
It is normal for this to be hard and strange to get used to. Sometimes kids are angry because they think the new person is keeping their mom and dad from getting back together with each other. Remember that divorce is final. They will not get back together. The best thing you can do is try to be nice and mannerly to the new person. If you give them the same chance that you give a new person you meet at school, you may find that it is not so hard to like them. Remember, too, to talk to your mom and dad about your feelings about this. They can help you feel better if they know how you feel. With time this will feel better. And remember that, no matter whom your parents start to date or marry, they both love you very much.