Coping With Your Parents’ Separation as an Adult

I’ve never felt more mentally exhausted or drained than what I’ve felt in the last ten months. After watching my parents separate, moving and trying to finish school, I’m really just ready for a nap and a decent face mask.

When you’re an adult and your parents split, there’s less legal influence over you since you’re over the age of 18. There’s no required visitation or custody. That leaves you, the child, in a predicament (one I was not prepared to be in) -- making an active and constant effort to maintain your relationships with both your parents as the ideas of normalcy and routine quickly drift away.

Understand that it’s not your fault

The first few weeks, I constantly wondered what I could have done differently to help my parents. The truth is: absolutely nothing. They are two independent, grown adults who were making an active choice to go their own ways and I couldn’t have controlled that.

Give yourself time to grieve

People around me encouraged me to be involved and proactive in my parents new lives... and their new S.O.’s. I wasn’t ready for that, and I don’t know if I ever will be. Don’t feel rushed to move into a new stage of the process. It’s a lot of change and it’s still like an open wound. You are 100% allowed to mourn the loss of the family unit you’ve known your entire life and the realization that things won’t ever be the same again.

Establish boundaries

If you don’t want to hear about who your parents are dating or how they are moving on with their lives, make that clear. This can change in the future, but if it causes you immediate pain or negative emotions, it’s best to take those discussions off the table for now. You also have the right to remove yourself from hearing about legal discussions and the nitty gritty details. Don’t feel bad about it.

Prioritize yourself

I think in the aftermath of the initial separation, I was functioning on autopilot. I was essentially a zombie. It took my best friend endlessly loving me and bringing me little care bags to show that if someone was that dedicated to take care of me, I needed to take care of myself too. Give yourself a “do nothing” night or weekend and plan to do something that makes you happy.

Love and appreciate those around you

Speaking of my best friend, show those around you gratitude. The ones who still around when something like this happens are the ones you really want to keep in your life. To my best friend- thank you for letting me cry on the couch with you, bringing me food and tagging me in dog GIF’s to make me smile.

Related: What My Parents' Divorce Showed Me About Love

Seek out resources

If the situation was emotionally draining, I have no doubt that it was mentally taxing on my friends as well to hear about it constantly. Sometimes it’s better to meet with a counselor or therapist to talk through your emotions. As wonderful as my friends are and the fact that they were willing to listen, I’m not paying them to be a licensed therapist.

It gets better, I promise.