7 tips to help you through your parents’ divorce
Everybody responds to stress and trauma in different ways; our Annual Bullying Survey found that those who bully are more likely to have experienced stressful and/or traumatic situations than those who do not. Homelife and family can have major impact upon young people and their behaviours – we found that 17% of people who had previously bullied somebody, had experienced the separation/divorce of their parents.
This can be a tricky and upsetting time, even if you are not entirely surprised by your parents decision to end their relationship. You might feel angry, confused, shocked, scared, powerless, embarrassed, relieved – or, you might not even know how to process your emotions right now! You might feel numb to it all. Whatever you are feeling, we can reassure you, it’s totally natural – and you are not alone. Statistics show that 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce – it is actually, quite a common part of modern-day life, and something many people have gone through.
DTL have compiled a list of things to remember, and put into practice if you feel like you are not coping with your parents’ separation. And remember, if you ever need to talk, we are here for you: http://www.ditchthelabel.org/get-help/
1. Remember that your parents have not ended their relationship because of you
Your parents are not separating because of something you did. They have just grown apart as people. Things often don’t work out in relationships, even when adults try really hard to work out their differences, they still might come to the conclusion that it is a healthier environment for all, not to stay together. Don’t feel as if you are to blame, because you are most definitely not. Realise that there is nothing you can/could have done to change the situation.
2. Allow yourself time to grieve/ let your emotions out
Inevitably, you will need to grieve the end of your parents relationship, and that is totally normal! Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to cry about it! It is much healthier to acknowledge how you are feeling, than to bottle up emotions. No one will think any less of you for getting upset about your parents’ separating – it’s a big deal, don’t downplay it! In the long run, being honest with yourself will aid the healing process.
If you need to cry, find a safe place (maybe that is in your bedroom alone, with some music on) and let it out!
If you are mad and need to release some of that pent up anger, we advise:
- Screaming as loudly as you can (into a pillow or cushion if you don’t want to be heard)
- Writing down exactly how you are feeling in a diary!
- Punching a pillow, cushion or a punch bag.
- Meditating – allow yourself 10 minutes everyday to sit, alone, in a quiet area. Relax and breathe deeply. Try not to focus your mind on anything other than the steady inhaling and exhaling of your breath.
Also, try and accept the fact that it is going to take time for you to be okay with this. It is very unlikely you will be able to immediately adjust to the changes going on around you; there will be days where you feel down, and days where you feel okay about it. Some days you might even agree with the decision that has been made! Just know, that whatever you are feeling, is completely normal.
3. Talk about it
A problem shared is a problem halved. You will feel so much better if you talk about how you are feeling, with someone you trust. If you feel like you can’t talk to your parents about what you are going through, maybe confide in another family member, teacher or friend – especially one that might have been through a similar experience. Talking will help you begin to come to terms with some of the changes you are facing. Remember that Ditch the Label are always here to talk if you need to.
4. Try not to take sides
Your parents might ask/expect you to take sides. Or maybe you feel your loyalty lies with one parent, over the other, depending on the circumstances of the separation. It is best for your own mental wellbeing not to reject your relationship with a parent based on the circumstances surrounding their divorce. It might not seem that way now, but it is more than likely you will want both your parents present in your life in the future. The best thing you can do, is to try and separate your personal relationship with your parents, from their own. Theirs’ might be coming to an end, but this does not mean yours does too. You will always be their child, and they will always be your parent.
5. Try not to feel guilty
Whether it’s about where you wake up on Christmas morning, or who you spent the most time with last week, your parents’ primary concern is most likely your happiness over anything else! If you’re feeling caught in the middle, then the best solution is to tell them this! They might not even be aware that you are feeling troubled by how your time is being divided, or certain arrangements they have put in place.
6. Don’t feel obliged
If your parents are using you as a go-between and this is making you uncomfortable, tell them you would rather they contacted each other directly rather than using you as the messenger pigeon. Chances are, they don’t even realise this could be having any kind of impact on your emotional wellbeing or handling of their separation. Try not to get caught in any conflict between your parents – it is not your responsibility to have to mediate between them. You are also not their therapist – if they are confiding in you and you feel burdened by it, this is likely to lead to divided loyalties and you feeling under pressure to support them emotionally.
Remember that their relationship and their separation are something they alone need to deal with, as two responsible adults.
7. Try not to feel left behind
Remember that the decision regarding which parent moves out of your home, will most likely have been made with your best interests in mind – it does not mean that the parent moving out loves you any less, or is ‘leaving you behind’. If you feel that you are not seeing enough of one parent, or you are missing them, speak to them about it. It might be time to change your arrangements! Try to work with your parents to figure out a new schedule that fits both your life, and theirs. Communication is key.