Parents going through divorce are constantly on the lookout for expert advice on how to raise healthy, resilient kids.
But hey, the kids themselves just might have the best answers. Below, eight writers share what it was like growing up with divorced parents and the one piece of advice they want to pass on.
“This might be hard to believe especially if you’re newly divorced, but you have not failed as a parent. Your marriage does not determine your skill as a parent and it shouldn’t change the way you view yourself as a parent. If anything, your ability to remain a good mom or dad throughout the trials and stress of a divorce gives you even more credibility as a parent. My mom and dad proved to me that you can still be there for your kids independently. Looking back now, I realize my parents’ divorce led me to become a better, stronger person.” –Jeaiza M. Quinones
“Here’s a little secret: I know very few truly well-adjusted people. We are all a little crazy. Even those who seem painstakingly normal. I have not actually noticed higher rates of neurosis or unhappiness in children of divorce than in children of intact marriages. In fact, I have plenty of friends with married parents who can best my crazy dysfunctional family stories any day of the week. All families have issues and divorce is just one of many. So parents going through divorce: don’t waste time worrying about how divorce will affect your children and instead pour all of that energy into self-control and self-awareness as you raise them. Breathe. If you’re a devoted parent committed to creating stability for your child, your kid will be fine — or at least as fine as everyone else’s.” –Toria Sheffield
“My advice is simple: Keep harsh words and sour thoughts entirely between the adults. Your kids are little sponges, soaking up the energy you put out. Their grown hearts will be full of the things they hear as children. And their future will be shaped by the decisions you make. You’ve lost a marriage, not yourself. When the dust settles and you feel strong enough, set off to accomplish any dreams that you’ve put on hold. My mother registered for college, completed two degrees, and launched a new career. Her actions taught me that even in the hardest times, we should reach into ourselves, find strength and continue living the best life possible.” –Mary Katherine Backstrom
“After divorce, a relationship with your kids is precious. But you need to put in work and be there for them. My parents split when I was four. When my mother remarried two years later, her new husband adopted my brothers and me. My birth father had to relinquish his parental rights, and I saw him only three times after that. I watched my friends interact with their fathers as if I were visiting a roped-off section of a museum. I wished my dad had fought for time with me. I needed him. Marriage is a rope, some are strong, some break. Kids, like diamonds, last forever. With strong influence from both parents, your kids will absolutely sparkle.” –Greg White
“Realize that the effects of divorce last generations. For instance, while I appreciate having both sets of my parents living close by, it’s a little tougher to schedule time for them to see their grandson. It’s not always easy to have three sets of grandparents for my son to visit, and it gets especially busy around holidays. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but as child of divorce at any age, it can feel a little stressful at times. My advice then, is to be considerate of your child’s schedule and needs. Having so many loving family members around is the happiest of problems. But as a divorced parent, please be understanding of your kids’ time even when they’re older.” –Zach Rosenberg
“My best advice to divorcing parents would be to treat your children with respect and remember that you’ve raised them to be smart, thoughtful people. The more you treat them like they are capable of compassion and understanding, the more they will be compassionate and understanding. The more you treat them like individual people and not just your child, the more they will be able to see you as individual people and not just their parents. Listen to them and answer their questions honestly and earnestly. And never dismiss their feelings or speak in clichés that might not apply to the way they are feeling. Each child will respond to a divorce differently and it’s important for you to give each reaction legitimacy even if you might not understand it.” –Nile Cappello
“My parents went through a divorce when I was four. I was young enough to not fully understand the ramifications but old enough to resent my father for it. During those early times, I wish my father would have decided to choose love and find a way to stay in our lives. When my mother was angry beyond belief, I wish she would have decided to choose love and let us talk to my father on the phone. What I wish my parents knew — and what I want parents to know now — is that even though a marriage is over, kids still love and need both of you in their lives. If you can find a way to co-exist (even if it’s facilitated through the courts), do it. I wish someone showed my parents that love isn’t a feeling. It’s a decision.” –Kimanzi Constable
“Although my parent’s divorce happened at an age where I was capable of understanding the complexities of why they split, I still benefited from their transparency in making me a part of the conversation. They provided me a basic understanding of why this was happening, how it would impact their relationships and even some of the history behind it. Depending on the age of your kids, transparency about why your divorce occurred might need to occur some time later, but when it does, be open and honest about the split. It might be difficult to do, especially if the divorce isn’t amicable, but as a now adult who maintains relationships with both parents, I appreciated their willingness to always have respected me in their decisions. I still appreciate it today.” –Tim Mousseau