How to Deal With Divorced Parents

Three Methods:Adjusting to a New SituationTalking to Your ParentsFocusing on Your Mental Health

Dealing with your parents getting divorced can be incredibly difficult. You have to adjust to new family dynamics, and even your living situation can change. It's normal to feel sad, frustrated, and angry. It's important to remember to be kind to yourself during this stressful time, and know that you are not alone. Talk to friends and family to get support.

Method 1
Adjusting to a New Situation

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    Be aware of possible changes. Divorce impacts every family differently. But almost all families go through significant changes during the process. If your parents are divorcing, it's important to know that your life might change in big ways. It's likely that one of your parents will not longer live with you.[1]
    • It is possible that you might have to move to a different house, and maybe even a different town. Often, when parents split up, one or both choose to move to a new location.
    • You might have to switch schools. Depending on whether or not you move, be prepared to attend a different school than you are used to.
    • These changes can be intense. Remember that it is normal to feel scared and frustrated about your new situation.
    • Remember that things will get better. You will get used to your new home, your new school, or your new routine. You will have to be flexible for awhile while you get used to these changes.
    • Keep doing the things you enjoy. For example, if you've also enjoyed soccer, you can join the team at your new school.
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    Keep in touch. Living with only one parent can be a tough situation. One of the best ways to cope is to make an effort to keep in touch with the parent that you don't see every day. Depending on your parents custody arrangement, you might not get to choose how often you see your mom or dad. But there are other ways to keep in touch.[2]
    • If your dad has moved out, set up a communication schedule with him. Make it a point to connect with one another every day. This will help you feel more in touch.
    • Use technology. In addition to talking on the phone, you can text, e-mail, Skype or Facetime.
    • Remind your parents that you are not divorcing either of them. Make sure they understand that you still love them both, and that it is important to you to spend time with each of them.
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    Compromise. Your parents divorce is an emotional experience for you. Try to remember that it is a really tough situation for your parents, too. While it is not your job to solve their problems, there are some things you can do to facilitate compromise. This can make the transition easier for all of you.[3]
    • Sometimes parents going through a divorce are uncomfortable being around each other. This can make it difficult for you, since you want both of them to be part of your life. Offer suggestions that work for everyone.
    • Maybe you have a big soccer game coming up. If your mom and dad can't handle being in the same place at the same time, ask one of them to come to the first half and the other can come to the second half. Remember, they're both on your side.
    • Ask your parents to help you facilitate the compromises. Tell them that you need both of them to remain active in your life, and ask them to come up with suggestions on how to do that.
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    Plan for the future. Part of what makes a divorce scary is that it can make things seem more uncertain. Maybe you're worried about how this will affect your annual vacation in the summer. Or maybe you wonder who is going to help you pay for college. Sit down with your parents and make a plan.[4]
    • It is perfectly normal to wonder about how the divorce is going to affect your life. Make a list of future events you are concerned about and share the list with your parents.
    • Ask your parents to help you figure out how to plan for each event on your list.

Method 2
Talking to Your Parents

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    Ask questions. Divorce is a new experience for you, so it makes sense that you might feel confused. One of the best ways to cope is to talk to your parents. They can help you figure out what's going to happen. Don't be afraid to ask any questions that you have.[5]
    • Many kids blame themselves for divorce. It's not your fault. Ask your parents to explain why they got divorced.
    • Ask specific questions. If you're worried about who is going to pick you up from school, ask.
    • Getting answers will help you feel better. It can make you feel more calm and confident.
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    Explain your needs. Remember that your parents are there to help you. But they are also going through a tough time, so they might not be as attentive as usual. Take some time to explain to your parents exactly what you need. They will listen.[6]
    • Make a list of things that you need. For example, if you are uncomfortable when your parents argue around you, let them know that you need them to stop.
    • Explain to your parents that you need some structure. Ask them to come up with a schedule of when you will be seeing mom and when you'll spend time with dad.
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    Express your emotions. Divorce is an intense life change. It is normal to feel a wide range of emotions. Let your parents know how you are feeling. They can listen, and help you figure out the best way to cope.[7]
    • Remember that it is normal to feel scared, angry, frustrated, confused, and sad.
    • Expressing your emotions is the first step in the healing process. By voicing what you feel, you can begin to figure out what will make you feel better.
    • If you feel scared that you won't see your dad anymore, tell your parents about that feeling. They can help you figure out a way to make a schedule that will make you feel better.
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    Listen carefully. It's important to ask questions and express your emotions. But it's just as important to listen to your parents when you talk. The key to good communication is that everyone involved listens to each other.[8]
    • When you ask a question, listen carefully to the answer. If you ask why your parents are getting divorced, listen when they tell you that it is because they have grown apart. They are telling the truth.
    • Listening shows that you respect your parents. If you demonstrate maturity by listening, your parents will treat you with respect, too.
    • Ask questions if your parents answers are still confusing. Tell them you need the situation explained differently.
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    Remember that you are the kid. There are a lot of things you can do to make dealing with this divorce easier. However, it is important to remember that it is not your divorce. Although it affects you, you are the child. These problems are not your fault, and they are not your responsibility.[9]
    • Divorced parents can be very frustrated with each other, and they might say bad things about one another. Try saying, "Mom, I understand that Dad hurt you. But it hurts me to hear you say negative things. Please stop."
    • Don't blame yourself for your parents problems. Divorce is not your fault.
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    Set clear boundaries. Although it's important to remember that your parents are the adults, sometimes during a divorce, you'll find that you need to take on extra responsibility. Tell your parents that you would like to set some clear boundaries and guidelines. Have this conversation with both parents, separately or together.[10]
    • For example, set a boundary establishing that you will not listen to either parent say negative things about each other. Make it clear that you are not taking sides, and they should not try to persuade you.

Method 3
Focusing on Your Mental Health

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    Focus on the positive. Divorce is a scary situation, and it can be easy to let the negative emotions control you. Taking care of your mental health is an important part of the healing process. If you can focus on the positive parts of the situation, you will begin to feel better.[11]
    • You are learning important coping skills from going through this tough situation. You will come out of this a more competent and mature person. That's a positive thing.
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    Look on the bright side. In addition to some general positive thinking, you can probably come up with some specific aspects of this situation that are positive for you. For example, you will probably get to celebrate each holiday twice![12]
    • Try making a list. Maybe your parents had been arguing late at night. Now you won't have to listen to that anymore. Write it down.
    • Your extended family might become more involved in your life now that your parents will need some extra support. Will you get to see your favorite aunt more often? Write it down.
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    Reduce your stress. There is no doubt that dealing with divorced parents is stressful. That's completely normal. But stress can have negative effects on your physical and mental health. There are several things you can do to lower your stress level.[13]
    • Get enough rest. It's tough to deal with a divorce when you're well-rested, but it's even harder if you are tired. Try to get 8-10 hours of sleep each night.
    • Exercise. Physical activity can release endorphins, which can elevate your mood. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Join a new sports team, or grab a friend to go for a walk.
    • Take a deep breath. Focusing on your breathing can lower your heart rate and make you feel calmer. When you are feeling anxious, take a time-out to focus on your breathing for a minute or two.
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    Have fun. It turns out that laughter is one of the best medicines. Research shows that laughter is an excellent antidote for stress and conflict. Make it a point to have fun, even while you're dealing with this difficult situation.[14]
    • Spend time with the funny people in your life. Do you have a friend that tells excellent jokes? Call and ask her to hang out.
    • Watch a funny movie. Ask your mom to join you for a marathon of silly movies on Netflix. It will be fun and relaxing for both of you.
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    Ask for help. While there are many things you can do to make yourself feel better, it's important to remember that there is no shame in asking for help. You might need to talk through the situation, or maybe you need some advice. Turn to someone you trust to help you out.[15]
    • If your school has a guidance counselor, she is a good resource. Ask her for some ideas to help you cope with your divorced parents.
    • Contact a relative. Talking to a cousin, for example, can be helpful since he knows everyone involved in the situation.


  • No matter what happens or what anybody says, remember that it's not your fault.
  • Talk to people who have divorced parents.
  • If one of your parents is dating a person you don't like, talk to them and share your feelings.
  • There are lots of help sources. Including Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868).

Article Info

Categories: Children and Divorce