Do you know someone whose parents are divorced? Are
parents divorced? Chances are that you can answer yes to one - or
maybe both - of those questions. And you are not alone!
Read on to find out what divorce is and what you can do to help
your family, your friends, or yourself when people get
What Is Divorce?
A divorce happens after a husband and wife decide they can't
live together anymore and no longer want to be married. They agree
to sign legal papers that make them each single again and allow
them to marry other people if they want to.
Although that may sound simple, it's not easy for a husband
and wife to decide to end a marriage. Often they spend a long time
trying to solve problems before deciding to divorce. But sometimes
they just can't fix the problems and decide that a divorce is
the best solution.
Sometimes both parents want to divorce, and sometimes one wants
to and the other one doesn't. Usually, both parents are
disappointed that their marriage can't last, even if one wants
a divorce more than the other.
Many kids don't want their parents to divorce. Some kids
have mixed feelings about it, especially if they know their parents
weren't happy together. Some kids may even feel relieved when
parents divorce, especially if there's been a lot of
between parents during the marriage.
It's really important for kids to know that just because
parents divorce each other, they're
divorcing their kids. Some kids think that if their parents are
divorcing, it means their moms and dads will want to leave them,
Although it's true that the kid of a divorced couple usually
lives with only one parent most of the time, the parent who lives
somewhere else is still that kid's mom or dad - forever.
That will never change
Kids Can't Cause Divorce!
There are many reasons why people divorce. Maybe they've
grown apart. Maybe the love they once had for each other has
changed. Maybe they fight and just can't agree about things.
Every couple has their own reasons for divorce. Whatever the
reasons are, one thing is for sure:
Kids don't cause divorce.
Still, many children of divorced parents believe they are the
reason their mom and dad got divorced. They think that if only they
had behaved better, gotten better grades, or helped more around the
house, the divorce wouldn't have happened. But this isn't
true. Divorce is between moms and dads only!
Even if you once heard your parents argue about you, or your
friend next door thinks his parents broke up because he got in
trouble at school, these things don't cause a husband and wife
to end their marriage. You may feel you're to blame for your
parents' divorce, but you are not the cause. And the fact that
your parents decide not to stay married is
Kids Can't Fix Divorce!
Just like the divorce is not the kid's fault, getting
parents back together is not up to the kid, either. And most
likely, this doesn't happen, although plenty of kids wish for
it and even try things they think might work. Acting like an angel
at home all the time (who can do that?) and getting straight As at
school (another hard thing to do) may make your mom and dad happy
with you, but it doesn't mean they'll get back
The opposite is also true. Getting in trouble so your mom and
dad will have to get together to talk about these problems is not
going to make the divorce go away, either. So, just be yourself and
to your parents about any feelings you have.
But I Feel Like My Whole World Just Fell Apart!
If your family is going through a divorce or you're helping
a friend through it, there are a few important things about
feelings you need to remember. First of all, it's normal to
feel lots of different things, including
Second, even though it may seem like your whole world just fell
apart, with time, things will be better again. Your life might be a
bit different, but the pieces will come back together again - maybe
even sooner than you think.
Meanwhile, there are ways you can deal with the feelings you
have. If you are really mad, you can punch your pillow, kick some
empty boxes, go hit a baseball, or run for as long and as fast as
you can. But never take your feelings out on another person.
Telling someone how you feel can also help. If you feel really
angry, say so. Talking is much better than keeping your feelings to
yourself or acting all grouchy and irritable.
Sometimes just talking to someone else is a big relief. Try
simply saying, "I'm so angry (or sad or worried) about my
parents getting divorced! It really upsets me!" When the
person who's listening can say something back to you like,
"No wonder you feel that way, I totally understand why you
do," it can help you feel even better. Sometimes that's
all the talking someone needs to do.
Sometimes it's just the beginning of many more conversations
you'll have. Talk to a parent. Or, if that doesn't feel
right, find someone else you really like to talk to, maybe your
brother or sister, a teacher,
, neighbor, or grandparent. It's tough to let it out, but it
can really help.
If you have a friend whose parents are divorcing, try to be a
good listener when your friend wants to talk. Divorce is never
Sometimes the feelings kids have about their parents'
divorce are so strong that kids have a hard time concentrating on
anything else. When kids are very sad, mad, or worried, they may
have trouble paying attention in class, focusing on
, or even remembering what they've just read. If this happens,
it's especially important to get some help.
Kids may feel much better after talking to a
, counselor, or social worker. These adults are trained to talk
with people about their problems and help with feelings that are
too intense. There are also support groups in schools and other
places in the community where kids can get to know other kids whose
parents have divorced or are divorcing and talk about how it
affects them. There are also lots of books about divorce written
just for kids.
Life After Divorce
When parents divorce, usually one parent moves out of the house
and lives somewhere else. Some kids spend part of the time living
with one parent and part of the time living with the other. Other
kids live mostly with one parent and visit the other. If this is
the case for you, it may seem strange at first to be visiting your
own parent, but you may even start to enjoy a little time away from
your everyday house. And it can feel good knowing you have two
homes where someone loves you.
If you live mostly with one parent, the other parent might live
close to you or far away. How often you can visit might depend
partly on where everyone lives. Some kids whose parents get
divorced have to
to a new home or a new neighborhood, and that can be tough, too.
Often (besides the divorce that is the major change) most other
things - like your school, friends, and neighborhood - will be the
When To Speak Up
Sometimes problems come up when kids visit one parent and then
go home to the other. For example, one parent might ask a lot of
questions about stuff the other parent is doing. Sometimes a parent
wants the kid to be a messenger between homes. Kids usually feel
uncomfortable when this sort of thing happens. They wish that
parents would just ask each other what they want to know.
Kids don't want to feel like they are in the middle. If
something like this happens to you, talk to your parents and tell
them how it makes you feel.
Wouldn't you like to know what will happen in the future?
For a kid of a divorced family, it may mean stepfamilies someday.
Don't expect everything to go smoothly all the time.
It can be really hard dealing with divorce, but try to remember
that lots of kids go through what you're going through, and
usually everything and everyone turns out fine. In fact - as bad as
things might seem right now - you just might be surprised at how
good the future turns out to be!
Richard Kingsley, MD
Date reviewed: September 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.