Whenever we go through a change in our life, we can experience moments of stress. Sometimes this stress can develop into anxiety as dealing with the unknown and the fear of change can lead to experiencing significant distress. If your parents just told you that they are getting divorced, it can be an overwhelming experience and you may have a lot of questions about what comes next for you and your family. Research shows that most kids struggle the most during the first year or two after their parents get divorced and can experience feelings of anger, distress and anxiety (Rappaport, 2013). However, the good news is that most kids will adjust to the changes that their new situation brings along. The following are some tips that can help you cope with the situation better.
- The concept of family – Although your parents are not together anymore, you still have a family, it just comes in a different form. Remember that you do not need to choose who to love, one parent over the other, but you can still love both parents equally.
- Expressing yourself – Sometimes, parents start to talk badly about the other parent in front of you and this can make you feel uncomfortable. If this happens, tell your parents that you do not want to be in the middle and that you do not want them to talk badly about your other parent. Also, if they tell you to pass a message to your other parent and do not like this, tell them. The earlier these ‘rules’ are established, the better. It is very common to have questions about what will happen next, where you will live, when you can see the other parent etc. Do ask these questions, as keeping them to yourself will not provide you with any answers and this can increase your stress or anxiety.
- Understanding what happened – Your parents getting divorced is not your fault. Adult relationships can be quite complicated and sometimes it is difficult to understand what went wrong. Your parents may not tell you why they are getting divorced and this can leave you with unanswered questions. They may do this because you are still young to understand these complex issues or to avoid making you feel angry or resentful towards the other parent.
- Talking to your friends – You are not alone in this situation, nowadays it is common for children to have their parents split up. If you have a friend who also went through this situation, it can be helpful to talk to someone about it who is your age who went through a similar experience.
- Seeking help – You may wish to speak to an adult outside your family about this situation. It is okay to ask for help. At school you can talk to a guidance teacher, counsellor or psychologist who can help you process and accept this new situation. Remember that this difficult time will pass too, and you will be in a position to feel happy again.
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.
Rappaport, S.R. (2013). Deconstructing the Impact of Divorce on Children. Family Law Quarterly, 47(3), 353-377.