More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
A Kid's Guide To Divorce
Do you know someone whose parents are divorced? Are your parents divorced?

Chances are that you can answer yes to one - or maybe both - of those questions. Read on to find out about what divorce is and what you can do to help yourself, your family, or your friends when divorce happens.

What Is Divorce?
A divorce happens after a husband and wife decide they can't live together anymore and no longer want to be married. They agree to sign legal papers that make them each single again and allow them to marry other people if they want to. There are many reasons why people divorce, but it's not easy for a husband and wife to end a marriage. Often they spend a long time trying to solve problems before deciding to divorce.

It's really important to know that just because parents divorce each other, they don't want to divorce their kids. Some kids think that if their parents are divorcing it means their moms and dads will want to leave them, too.

Although it's true that the kid of a divorced couple usually lives with only one parent most of the time, even the parent who lives somewhere else is still that kid's mom or dad - forever. That will never change.

Kids Can't Cause Divorce!
There are many reasons why people divorce. One thing is for sure: kids don't cause divorce. Still, many children of divorced parents believe they are the reason Mom and Dad got divorced. They think that if only they had behaved better, had better grades, or helped more around the house, the divorce wouldn't have happened. But this isn't true. Remember, divorce is between moms and dads only. Even if you once heard your parents argue about you, or your friend next door thinks his parents broke up over his lousy report cards, these things don't cause a husband and wife to end their marriage. You may feel you're to blame for your parents' divorce, but you are not the cause, and the fact that your parents decide not to stay married is not your fault.

Just like the divorce is not the kid's fault, getting parents back together is not up to the kid, either. And most likely, this doesn't happen. Acting like an angel at home all the time (who can do that?) and getting straight A's at school may make your mom and dad happy with you, but it doesn't mean they'll get back together. The opposite is also true. Getting in trouble so your mom and dad will have to get together to talk about these problems is not going to make the divorce go away, either. So, just be yourself and try to talk to your parents about any feelings you have.

How Can I Act Normally When My Whole World Just Fell Apart?
Well, you probably can't. If your family is going through a divorce or you're helping a friend through it, there are a few important points about feelings you need to remember. First of all, it's normal to feel lots of different things, including anger, fear, and sadness.

If you are really mad you can punch your pillow, kick some empty boxes, go hit a baseball, or run for as long and as fast as you can. But never take your feelings out on another person.

Talking about your feelings can also help you feel better about your different emotions. Talk to a parent. Or, if that doesn't feel right, find someone else you really like to talk to, maybe your brother or sister, a teacher, neighbor, or grandparent. It's tough to let it out, but it can really help. If you have a friend whose parents are divorcing, maybe you can try to be a good listener when your friend wants to talk. Some kids feel better after talking to a psychologist, counselor, or social worker. These adults are trained to talk with people about their problems. They may advise that you join a support group to get to know other kids whose parents have divorced or are divorcing. There are also lots of books about divorce written just for kids.

When to Speak Up
When parents divorce, kids generally live with one parent and visit the other. If this is the case for you, it may seem strange at first to be visiting your own parent, but you may even start to enjoy a little time away from your everyday house. And it can feel good knowing you have two homes where someone loves you.

There are common problems, however, that sometimes come up when kids visit one parent and then go home to the other. Sometimes one parent will ask a lot of questions about stuff the other parent is doing. Sometimes a parent wants the kid to be a messenger between homes. If this happens to you, talk to your parents and tell them if it makes you feel bad.

The Future
Wouldn't you like to know what will happen in the future? For a kid of a divorced family, it may mean stepfamilies someday. Don't expect everything to go smoothly all the time. It can be really hard dealing with divorce, but try to remember that lots of kids go through what you're going through, and usually everyone turns out fine.
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