YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR PARENTS’S SEPARATION AND DIVORCE.
When I was growing up, my mother, Toby, always said about arguments, that “it takes two to tango!”
Do you know the tango? It is a very intimate dance, where the dancers hold each other very closely. Each of their moves are in response to each other’s moves, the way they hold themselves, each other.
Well, when we are with friends and relatives, or at school or in public areas, we are relating to people as in a dance. The ‘social dance’. This dance is just how we interact with others. How we interact with others is based on what we want to share, what we believe about the activity or interaction, what we feel the other party is really telling us about themselves, their wants, their desires. We, each of us, interpret what is true about the other in that situation.
Guess what. We may be completely wrong. Right?
You see, each of us interpret based on what we believe. What we believe is how we feel about something, or someone. Our feelings are genuine, but they may be wrong.
Well, this is called communication. Communication is imperfect. Why?
Consider this. Your mom and dad were raised by different sets of parents. Like you, those parents each had parents, your grandparents. If you’re lucky enough to know them as I did know my grandparents, you had fun, you ate well, you learned from them about their lives and how to live yours. Everyone was raised with different abilities to understand, different abilities to communicate. Different values and different interpretations, different feelings about chores, schoolwork, vocational choices, girlfriends, boyfriends, and more.
Everyone was raised with different abilities to understand things, to communicate their feelings, beliefs and goals. To cope. If you have a parent on drugs, or drinks heavily, you know that they have chose devices to make them feel better about their life. The effect of such drugs and alcohol is only temporary, right? So each of us need to know what motivates us. Sometimes, our motivations are wrong for us, sometimes their just criminal. But let’s talk more about coping.
As you try to understand your parent’s difficulties, know that they both love you. Their own personal choices may be wrong, they may punish you severely, they may isolate themselves from you. But they do so because they feel so badly about themselves.
The greatest challenge for a parent is to understand why they think what they do, why they behave as they do, and why they need to learn more about their changing lives. You see, your parents may no longer love each other, nor live together, but they each want to love you, to parent you, entertain you, provide you, enjoy spending time with you. But frequently, when a parent is faced with the end of a love relationship, a marriage, they will feel at fault. They will feel many things, as you do.
What do parents feel?
Fear. Anger. Relief. Depressed.
Do you feel the same way?
If you do, talk about your feelings with your mom or dad. Don’t blame them. They often can’t help themselves fort leaving the marriage, the home, or you.
- Talk with a friend.
- Talk with your priest or rabbi.
- Talk with your school guidance counselor.
- Tell you teacher and they will help guide you to someone who can help.
Unsure? Call 211, just the numbers 2,1,1 on your telephone. This is Infoline, and they are available 24 hours a day. Tell them your concerns, and they will give you the name of an agency who you can call for help. Help for you, even help for your mom and dad. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Isn’t it better when you have an answer? Sure it is.
I want to tell you little about the court process, since mom and dad will likely be going to court to ask for help. They want help in knowing how they should now form a different partnership to raise you.
In the divorce and what is called the child custody process, frequently the court (Judge) will order that you and your siblings and your parents have a psychological exam. Why? To help you each understand what and why the marriage has failed, what and why you now change. It’s okay to be fearful of change. Change is often very difficult for anyone. It may be very difficult for you, and for one or both of your parents. No matter how much they may smile, your mom and dad is likely very sad over the many changes happening now in their lives.
A major change for mom and dad is that they must spend time with you based on an agreement that they need to make with a family mediator, or which is ordered by the Judge. It’s not necessarily that mom and dad want to see you less often. It’s because that is what the court ordered. What the court orders is not necessarily fear. Sometimes, it’s based on knowing very little about you, and your needs.
So, what can I advise you?
- Confidence. Confidence that your life will get better, though it is so difficult to make changes now.
You may have to leave your home, find a new school, sometimes move far away. Not to worry. If you feel at the lowest you’ve ever felt now, then you can know that your life can only get better and better Think of ocean waves. Some crash on the shoreline. Some seem to sail and gently caress the sand. That is life. Our own emotions move this way. They move this way, and that way, and this way, and that way. Our emotional waves change with our beliefs about the future.
Take each day at a time. Truly, give yourself a break. Tell yourself, ‘yes, I’m in a change that I cannot control. But, I can control how I feel, I can control what I believe. I can become stronger with love for mom and dad who are having it so tough now.
Be open to your feelings. Believe you are a good person. Be confident that your parents love you.
Dr. Mark Roseman
A divorced dad