How I Coped With My Parents’ Divorce as a Child

I was eleven years old when I watched my parents sign off on their divorce papers. We had gathered at my mom’s new house. It felt like an appropriate location for such an event considering my siblings and I would now be living there without my father. My parents signed away their marriage quickly, without much fuss. I could sense that they were both so done and wanted to get it over with.

By then, I was pretty over it and done too. After years of earnestly wishing that they’d stay together while blowing out birthday cake candles, praying constantly that they would stop fighting, and even showing them Bible verses against divorce, my energy was gone and I had no choice but to accept reality.

At least now it was over; there was no more waiting for it to happen. I no longer had to worry about living with parents who constantly yelled at each other, nor did I have to anxiously anticipate when the next argument would break out. I felt relieved that I didn’t have to live in a home with both of them anymore.

The looming threat of divorce was gone. Now it was time to adjust to a new life.

The first thing I worried about was what people at school would think. I didn’t want anyone to find out. I was halfway through my first year of middle school, and I was anxious about letting any personal information get into the wrong hands for fear of ridicule and gossip.  I just didn’t want my personal life out there for all to know. It was still so new, and I felt vulnerable. I decided I would tell only those that I trusted the most.

I told my fifth grade teacher first because she was the most compassionate and understanding person I knew at school. My friends and I all adored her, and we’d visit her during our lunch even though we’d already graduated from elementary school (I went to a shared elementary and middle school). It was during one of these lunchtime visits that I waited for my friends to finish chatting with her, and then when they weren’t paying attention, I told her that my parents had gotten divorced.

She immediately told my friends to leave and go to their next class; they were caught off guard but shuffled out as she requested. As soon as they left, she walked over to me from her desk and gave me a hug. The moment she hugged me, I broke down.

I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer, and I cried. It was the first time I’d allowed myself to truly feel the emotions surrounding my parent’s divorce.

I was late for my next class, and my friends knew something was wrong. They tried to comfort me as best they could. I appreciated their sentiments, but at that moment I realized that none of them could relate to what I was going through. In fact, I didn’t know anyone else from school who had divorced parents; all of my friends’ parents were happily married—as far as I knew.

Whenever I’d visit friends at their house and saw their family together, there never seemed to be any malice, no ill intent. It seemed so different from how my parents interacted with each other, and I found it strange and alienating. There was no one I could truly relate to or speak to about my situation. It made me feel alone.

It was strange for my siblings as well. When I realized that my school friends couldn’t relate to my situation, I made a decision to rely on my siblings for support and any other matter concerning the divorce. My siblings and I were always there for each other in the years leading up to the divorce, and even more so afterwards. None of my friends had two separate households, nor did they know what it was like to only see one of their parents on the weekends, and the other during the week. Only my siblings and I understood all of this, and we found solace in being there for each other.

We began to openly discuss the divorce with each other when our parents weren’t around. This was a great outlet for us because we were able to vent and not keep everything bottled up inside. Even today my siblings and I will have the occasional conversation about the divorce, and sometimes we joke about it. Back then, I’m sure my eleven-year-old self wouldn’t have thought I’d ever be able to laugh about something so devastating; however, we do now—not because it’s funny, but because humor is one of the best ways for us to cope.

Without a doubt, the best thing to come out of my parents’ divorce is the strong bond that I formed with my siblings.

Today, I realize that this event brought us closer together in a way that will last a lifetime. I’m not sure where I’d be today if it weren’t for them. Thankfully we had each other’s support during this time, but we also developed our own individual ways of coping.

For me, one of my biggest outlets was journal writing. Journaling allowed me to sort out my thoughts; I’d let the words just start pouring out onto the paper, and I wouldn’t stop until I reached a point where I felt like I didn’t have anything else to say. The main purpose was to allow myself to write my thoughts down, and then have an emotional response to the words. Even if I only felt worse after writing it, journaling still provided a much-needed outlet. There was just something so therapeutic about emptying my thoughts on paper—by thinking, writing, and processing what I’d just put down, I felt less upset about it.

Even after learning how  to cope with the divorce, it is still something that I think about every so often. It so heavily changed my life that I don’t think there’ll ever be a day where I can act like it never happened. I grew up too fast by witnessing firsthand the ugliness of a deteriorating marriage; my childhood is largely defined by my parents’ constant fighting and yelling at each other, the way it affected me emotionally, and by the way my siblings and I dealt with it.

Even as an adult it affects the way I perceive romantic relationships, which I approach with a great deal of caution for fear of making the mistakes my parents did.

Looking back on all this, I’ve learned to understand and even appreciate all the effects this divorce has had on my life. Yes, much of it had a negative impact, but it also forged an amazing bond with my siblings that would never have occurred otherwise. It also taught me to have a greater appreciation for things while they last, because you never know when it might be gone—something I especially realize after living in six different homes after the divorce. Ultimately, this experience has given me a unique outlook on life, and I believe there is a reason for everything, even the things that cause us pain.

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How I Coped With My Parents’ Divorce as a Child

I was eleven years old when I watched my parents sign off on their divorce papers. We had gathered at my mom’s new house. It felt like an appropriate location for such an event considering my siblings and I would now be living there without my father. My parents signed away their marriage quickly, without much fuss. I could sense that they were both so done and wanted to get it over with.

By then, I was pretty over it and done too. After years of earnestly wishing that they’d stay together while blowing out birthday cake candles, praying constantly that they would stop fighting, and even showing them Bible verses against divorce, my energy was gone and I had no choice but to accept reality.

At least now it was over; there was no more waiting for it to happen. I no longer had to worry about living with parents who constantly yelled at each other, nor did I have to anxiously anticipate when the next argument would break out. I felt relieved that I didn’t have to live in a home with both of them anymore.

The looming threat of divorce was gone. Now it was time to adjust to a new life.

The first thing I worried about was what people at school would think. I didn’t want anyone to find out. I was halfway through my first year of middle school, and I was anxious about letting any personal information get into the wrong hands for fear of ridicule and gossip.  I just didn’t want my personal life out there for all to know. It was still so new, and I felt vulnerable. I decided I would tell only those that I trusted the most.

I told my fifth grade teacher first because she was the most compassionate and understanding person I knew at school. My friends and I all adored her, and we’d visit her during our lunch even though we’d already graduated from elementary school (I went to a shared elementary and middle school). It was during one of these lunchtime visits that I waited for my friends to finish chatting with her, and then when they weren’t paying attention, I told her that my parents had gotten divorced.

She immediately told my friends to leave and go to their next class; they were caught off guard but shuffled out as she requested. As soon as they left, she walked over to me from her desk and gave me a hug. The moment she hugged me, I broke down.

I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer, and I cried. It was the first time I’d allowed myself to truly feel the emotions surrounding my parent’s divorce.

I was late for my next class, and my friends knew something was wrong. They tried to comfort me as best they could. I appreciated their sentiments, but at that moment I realized that none of them could relate to what I was going through. In fact, I didn’t know anyone else from school who had divorced parents; all of my friends’ parents were happily married—as far as I knew.

Whenever I’d visit friends at their house and saw their family together, there never seemed to be any malice, no ill intent. It seemed so different from how my parents interacted with each other, and I found it strange and alienating. There was no one I could truly relate to or speak to about my situation. It made me feel alone.

It was strange for my siblings as well. When I realized that my school friends couldn’t relate to my situation, I made a decision to rely on my siblings for support and any other matter concerning the divorce. My siblings and I were always there for each other in the years leading up to the divorce, and even more so afterwards. None of my friends had two separate households, nor did they know what it was like to only see one of their parents on the weekends, and the other during the week. Only my siblings and I understood all of this, and we found solace in being there for each other.

We began to openly discuss the divorce with each other when our parents weren’t around. This was a great outlet for us because we were able to vent and not keep everything bottled up inside. Even today my siblings and I will have the occasional conversation about the divorce, and sometimes we joke about it. Back then, I’m sure my eleven-year-old self wouldn’t have thought I’d ever be able to laugh about something so devastating; however, we do now—not because it’s funny, but because humor is one of the best ways for us to cope.

Without a doubt, the best thing to come out of my parents’ divorce is the strong bond that I formed with my siblings.

Today, I realize that this event brought us closer together in a way that will last a lifetime. I’m not sure where I’d be today if it weren’t for them. Thankfully we had each other’s support during this time, but we also developed our own individual ways of coping.

For me, one of my biggest outlets was journal writing. Journaling allowed me to sort out my thoughts; I’d let the words just start pouring out onto the paper, and I wouldn’t stop until I reached a point where I felt like I didn’t have anything else to say. The main purpose was to allow myself to write my thoughts down, and then have an emotional response to the words. Even if I only felt worse after writing it, journaling still provided a much-needed outlet. There was just something so therapeutic about emptying my thoughts on paper—by thinking, writing, and processing what I’d just put down, I felt less upset about it.

Even after learning how  to cope with the divorce, it is still something that I think about every so often. It so heavily changed my life that I don’t think there’ll ever be a day where I can act like it never happened. I grew up too fast by witnessing firsthand the ugliness of a deteriorating marriage; my childhood is largely defined by my parents’ constant fighting and yelling at each other, the way it affected me emotionally, and by the way my siblings and I dealt with it.

Even as an adult it affects the way I perceive romantic relationships, which I approach with a great deal of caution for fear of making the mistakes my parents did.

Looking back on all this, I’ve learned to understand and even appreciate all the effects this divorce has had on my life. Yes, much of it had a negative impact, but it also forged an amazing bond with my siblings that would never have occurred otherwise. It also taught me to have a greater appreciation for things while they last, because you never know when it might be gone—something I especially realize after living in six different homes after the divorce. Ultimately, this experience has given me a unique outlook on life, and I believe there is a reason for everything, even the things that cause us pain.

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