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Wellness > Mental Health

The Side Not Discussed: Adults With Newly Divorced Parents

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Winona chapter.

Before I begin, I would like to state that this article is meant to reach out to people in similar situations and let them know they are not alone. I would never use a negative situation in someone else’s life for my own personal gain. What is to follow is my side of a very emotional and heartbreaking situation.

Growing up, I was definitely a “Daddy’s Girl.” I was his best buddy, and we did everything together from watching shows to fixing cars. As time went on, my relationship with my mom grew. Now, with the same amount of love and admiration, I am equally close to them both.

The summer before my freshman year of college, my parents informed me they were getting a divorce. Due to financial circumstances, it did not officially hit the government records until this past year; I am now a senior in college. 

It has not been easy.

Due to my equally loving relationship with both of them, I felt the need to take sides. Phone calls, visits home, and even talks with my younger sibling have induced conflicting feelings. 

Since I always check in on my parents’ emotional and physical well-being, separating boundaries with them has been difficult. Of course I want to know what is causing their depressed days or angry feelings, but when the answer involves the divorce, which it frequently does, I develop a loss for words. After all, when one parent begins complaining about the other, how am I supposed to respond? I can’t disagree, but I also can’t agree. Or when one parent complains about a specific situation, should I tell them they are in the wrong, or should I promote toxic behavior? The answer I am sure you are thinking is neither. But then what do I say? The loss for words is an understandable situation, but it makes the conversation come to an awkward end, thus damaging our relationship.

Then there is the instance of the holidays. As a child in a divorce, holiday custody is chosen in written agreement by the parents. Children are told exactly where to go and with whom to go (which I recognize is emotionally taxing in its own right). As adults, we’re invited to both parents’ holiday events. We are also busy with our significant other’s family holiday events and, in my case, work. So when we only have time for one parent, we have to choose. 

When my younger sibling asks me questions, they are never easy. Of course, when the question involves love or blame, I always reassure my sibling, stating the correct answer: our parents love you, and it is in no way your fault. But when the question involves why or how, it becomes more challenging. How do I explain to a ten year old the heartbreaking truth of reality? How parents fall out of love yet still care for each other? How a vow of love, promising loyalty through the ups and downs in life, doesn’t actually guarantee anything? You can’t. Or, at least, I can’t. I refuse to break my younger sibling’s heart and ruin her childhood innocence. I’m a big sister; I am supposed to protect my siblings from hurt, not induce it.

If you read this article for answers, I’m sorry to inform you that there are none. I am still figuring it out too. I have developed quite a significant amount of trust issues, which I am working on via the proper and healthy avenues. And if you are in that same boat, then I 100% empathize with you. However, as hard as it is, I have a feeling it will get easier as time goes on. I will eventually learn to set healthy boundaries with my parents. I will schedule holidays in alternating years. My sibling will grow up and learn the hard truth about life. But for now, I wing it. And if you are in the same situation, you can wing it with me.

Just remember one thing for me, will you? You are not alone. Thousands of adults are experiencing what we are feeling. It is not talked about nearly enough, but I promise, one way or another, we will get through it.

Stay strong, my dear reader.

Cheyenne Halberg is a student at Winona State University with a major in Communication Arts and Literature Teaching. She is from the outskirts of St. Cloud, MN. Cheyenne enjoys writing to express herself and empowering others to do what they love. Her hobbies include spending time with friends and family, watching football, spending time outdoors, crafting and writing. Her life goal is to leave an impression on the next generations that allows them to embrace their unique qualities.