I’ve always assumed that my parents were happily married; they never fight and have never given me a reason to believe they are unhappy. Last week, they announced they were getting divorced. I’m so shocked and confused by this. I’m 16 and an only child, so I have no brothers or sisters to rely on for support. For the first time in my life, I’m frightened. Will I have to choose between my parents now?
I’m so sorry to hear about your parents getting a divorce. As a psychologist, much of my time is spent counseling anxious parents as well as their children. You parent’s divorce is probably the toughest thing you’ll have to deal with while you’re growing up. I know your world has been turned upside down right now, and it’s going to take some time to adjust to your new way of life, but you will get through it.
Having seen hundreds of couples divorcing, I can tell you that just because your parents are separating it doesn’t mean that they are no longer your parents or that they don’t love you. It is important for you to remember that you are not the reason for their divorce. Keep in mind that your parents do love you and want the best for you. This is probably why they tried to hide their unhappiness from you. From my clinical experience, I should warn you that now that the divorce is out in the open, you may find your parents being more open and vocal about their feelings for one another. It’s really important that you remind yourself that this is not about you and the divorce is not your fault. In all the family counseling I have done, I noticed that this is a common misconception that is not based on truth.
During the divorce proceedings a decision will be made about where you will live in the future. Without knowing the reason for your parent’s divorce as well as more background information it is difficult to know what decision will be made in your case. Either your parents may be given shared/joint custody of you or one of your parents may be given sole custody with the other parent being allowed visitations. Be sure that you speak up and let your parents know how you feel about your living arrangements.
Let your mother or father know that the divorce is bothering you and that you would like help dealing with it. If you’re unable to talk to them about the divorce then try contacting a school counselor or a trained professional therapist. Please reach out to me if you need someone to talk to in confidence. I have worked with many teenagers going through their parent’s separation and I can provide you with the necessary tools to get through this difficult time in your life. Remember, your parents are divorcing each other. They’re not divorcing you. This may be the end of your parent’s marriage, but it is not the end of your family.
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