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Counseling & Psychological Services
Montana State University
P.O. Box 173180
Bozeman, MT 59717-3180

Tel: (406) 994-4531
Fax: (406) 994-2485
Location: 211 Swingle
> Counseling & Psychological Services
Counseling Services

Your Parents' Divorce

A divorce always affects children, even adult children, and almost always has lingering effects. For example, feelings of guilt, of a lost childhood, the burden of obligations to one or both parents, of being "caught in the middle", or of neglect by one or both parents. Your academic work, your present and future relationships, and even your emotional well-being may all be influenced by how you resolve problems and feelings associate with your parents' divorce.

HOW TO COPE.

  1. You didn't cause the divorce.
  2. It's normal to have strong emotional responses to the divorce.
  3. You have a right to continue your own life with the following expectations:
    • that you will have a satisfying relationship with each parent
    • that you will not be caught between your parents' struggle with each other
    • that you have a right to your feelings (eg hurt, anger, frustration, love)
    • that you have a right to work through your feelings and receive cooperation from other family members
    • that you have a right to maintain your position in priority for family resources (particularly support for school).
BASIC GUIDELINES FOR SURVIVAL AND GROWTH.
  1. Don't go through this period alone
  2. Take care of yourself. Don't let stress take the upper hand. Make time for exercise and the leisure activities you enjoy.
  3. Work out your feelings. You may feel sad, angry, or depressed. You may feel responsible for other family members. Concentration may become difficult. These are normal reactions, and healing takes time. Share these feelings with others who have had a similar experience.
  4. Keep yourself informed. Talk directly with each parent. It's not necessary to intrude into areas which are private to your parents, only to ask what you need to know. For example, when the divorce will take place, who will live where, if there will be any change in your financial arrangements.
  5. Avoid getting caught in the middle or taking sides. Divorcing parents sometimes try to avoid their own pain or anxiety by taking revenge on each other. They may assume an act of vulnerability with the children, or openly criticize or blame the other parent. Either way, the children may quickly feel caught in the middle. To protect your own emotional well-being, clearly and firmly refuse to be put in the middle.
  6. Help your parents understand what you are doing for yourself. During and after the divorce, your parents may have difficulty seeing things clearly, or appreciating your point of view. Make an effort to prevent hurt feelings or misunderstandings by explaining your experiences and actions.
  7. Find out what works for you. Reactions vary widely to parental divorce. There is no set pattern of how you are going to feel. Don't ignore your feelings, and stay productive in your own life. Try to avoid making major decisions or changes. Your familiar surroundings, friends, and activities will help keep you on the right path.
  8. Use helping resources outside your family. Families typically exlude "outsiders" in a crisis, but other resources can be very helpful. Friends, groups, and professional counselors all have something to offer. Written materials can also provide additional support through this time.

View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 12/17/08
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