Recently I met with a young woman who had a refreshing take on her parent’s divorce. Here is what she had to say.
My parents divorced when I was around 6 years old.
Since I was quite young I don’t think I really understood what was happening. I was excited to have 2 homes/Xmas’s/Birthdays and didn’t ever feel that my parents not being together was an issue. My dad only moved 10 minutes away so we saw him quite regularly which I think is why it didn’t bother me initially.
In my pre-teen years, I did go through hot and cold moments with both parents as I was understanding why they got divorced. As entered into my teen years, I started questioning why they split up and what made them “fall out of love”.
During adolescence I experienced anger as the great benefits I saw as a child were not as shiny and fun anymore. I was jealous of my friends who had their parents together and did family holidays etc. I also started to see a downside to not having two parents under the same roof with sibling issues, school issues and the stress it placed on my mum doing a lot of it alone.
I became very close to my mother as entered adulthood
I believe this is partly because we are 2 pea’s in a pod, but also, I lived with mum 80% of the time. She had to take on the mum and dad role, so she was the one who was there to reign me in and celebrate my successes. While I have a closeness with my dad and have great fun with him, he is more a friend than a support person.
Now that I am older I see the divorce was the best thing my parents could have done as it allowed their negative relationship with each other to subside so they could focus all their energy on a positive relationship with their kids. Had they stayed together I think they would have both been miserable, end up loathing/hating each other and would still have eventually divorced, but on a much sourer note where more damage would have been done.
As an adult, my parents’ divorce doesn’t appear to affect me in a negative way.
As a teenager I went through counselling to smooth out some of the issues with my dad – and he came with me which was really helpful. I believe that, as well as mums commitment to ensuring our mental wellbeing and relationship with both parents was a priority, has contributed to my ability to be ok now.
Being an adult and having a long-term relationship of my own, I view having children and getting married very seriously. Having grown up with divorced parents, I am a firm believer that just because you are no longer married doesn’t mean you divorce your children as well. The family unit will always be intact and needs to adjust through divorce and not dissolve.
I think my parents handled the divorce brilliantly
We stayed close, maintained a great relationship with both parents and even today, are still are able to do “family” things together. I know that there were times for my parents that were difficult, but they did such a good job at protecting us from their stuff – while still allowing us to have our feelings about what was happening.
I know people who have divorced and can’t see past the hate they have for each other to be there for their kids. They bad mouth each other to the kids, refuse to be at the same event together and rarely communicate. This is the worst way to be as at the end of the day the kids truly suffer. . I am lucky and grateful that my parents put their differences aside to maintain the best relationship they could together so that we never had awkward/uncomfortable events – they are both present at all birthdays and we even share Christmas day.
If I could change anything about my experience, it would be that my dad put more serious ‘parenting’ effort
For a little while, I was angry at my mum as we lived with her and it seemed as though dad was on the outside. Then this switched to being angry at my dad once I understood some of the reasons for their divorce. The way my dad handled some of the situations that arose after they had divorced – money, effort and how often he checked in with us, became an issue for me.
As I mentioned earlier, my dad and I have a great relationship now. However, looking back, I would have liked to have had more support and discipline from him than just being the fun parent. Even though we lived quite close by, the majority of the parenting decisions fell on mum and that couldn’t have been easy on her.
My advice for people going through separation or divorce today would be to focus on the kids.
I really believe the best thing my parents did was to allow us to express our feelings and to keep us out of their issues. I didn’t know the full story of their break up until I was an adult. And while it was a difficult story to hear, I am grateful to be able to have strong connections with both parents because of I wasn’t used in a game of tug and war.
Maintain a level of family unity. It doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with the other parent, but from my perspective as a child, I never ever felt bad or silly for wanting my dad to be at Christmas. It was expected that he would be there and at my birthdays. Extended family or friends may have had opinions on that, but, that didn’t matter. My parents prioritised OUR experience and I am eternally grateful for that.
Finally, look after eachother as co-parents. The weight shouldn’t fall more heavily on one parent or the other. Both of you will find things tough and the kids need you BOTH to support and guide them. Try and be on the same page and support eachother as parents.