Divided but not broken (Part 1)
What life is like for kids with separated or divorced parents
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Although my parents are not divorced, I know how it feels to live without a proper father figure. My dad lives in another country, and although I talk to him almost every day, we do not connect as much as a father and son should.
I mean, I am not depressed or sad or anything, but I sometimes wonder what it must be like to have a constant male presence. However, I know I certainly do not have it as bad as some kids whose parents are actually divorced.
I recently spoke with Guidance Counselor Maggie Leiteritz, and she gave me some insight on how a child with divorced or separated parents might feel.
First of all, the child may feel like the divorce was their fault, especially if it was an ugly breakup. Obviously, this is not true, as almost all of divorces are out of the child’s control.
The stages of dealing with divorce can sometimes be similar to the stages of grief with a parent’s death. These kids may also have to deal with moving, or going from a house to an apartment, which can take a toll.
“How they may present themselves in my office depends on the stage of the separation or divorce. So if they’re just finding out, it could be that they’re in denial or shocked or it could be that they’re angry,” said Leiteritz.
Either way, divorce can be a major life stressor to the child, which could affect them emotionally, mentally, and educationally.
“They may be so distracted and concerned about what their future looks like, that they can’t concentrate on their homework. Their emotions surrounding the divorce can get in the way of their focus of academics also,” said Leiteritz.
However, although unfortunate, divorce can be necessary, especially if it has to do with abuse of any kind. The children going through this may need help in knowing what healthy relationships look like, especially if abuse was a factor.
Usually, the mother has custody of the child, and it is the father who must have a visitation schedule. This however is not always the case, and there can be more of a balance of visitation, or co-parenting.
“I’m with my mom Saturday nights after dinner to Thursday nights after school. Then with my dad from Thursday after school to Saturday dinner,” said Freshman Beck Nolan.
Most kids like Nolan learn to deal with it, and divorce only rarely causes long lasting or serious issues to the child. The more support they have earlier on, the better their future will be.
“I have adjusted to it very well. It really doesn’t bother me as much,” said Nolan.
There are also ways in which parents can help make things easier for their child. Unfortunately, some students refuse to talk about it, whether it be with staff or with friends. They may feel ashamed about what they’re going through.
However, one of the best things to do is to talk to a trusted adult. Parents can call social workers at the school and ask them to keep an eye on their student, and it is important for parents to watch for any signs or symptoms for their child needing extra emotional support.
Parents should also attempt to keep the separation as non-confrontational as possible and not talk negatively about the other parent to the child. The parents should remain cordial and respectful to each other, and must remind the child that they are not at fault for what is happening. They should keep open minds in terms of communication, and should both support the child.
Ways of coping as the child could be journaling, being involved in clubs and activities, keeping busy, spending time with friends, or talking to relatives. The best way to determine visitation schedules is to have a discussion with the child, and to try to find something that satisfies everyone.
“In a perfect world, it would be terrific if the parents and the children, depending on their ages and if the children are mature enough to help in the decision making, if everybody worked together to come up with a schedule that would be best,” said Leiteritz.
Again, issues relating to this are uncommon, but it never hurts to have some support.
“Things WILL get better, no matter how bad the situation is. It will get better 100%. I can guarantee it,” said Nolan.