The Changing Families Group
(This story was created and written by five 5th grade students in one of my Changing Families Groups here at East Woods. Many of these students had participated in The Changing Families Group in both 4th and 5th grades. I am very proud of all their work, and more importantly, how freely they have shared their experiences for others to learn.)
This story is about divorce, and how it affects you. It will help you have a better understanding about divorce and your feelings. You are not the only one out there that is dealing with divorce. You are not alone. Between 45-50% of families have experienced or gone through a divorce. This book is for that 45-50% out there in the world, who want some help with divorce.
Heather - I am 11 years old. My parents have been divorced for 2 years. I like to dance and swim.
Cloe - I am 11 years old. My parents have been divorced for about 2 years. I like to do art, play with my pets, and hang out with my friends.
Philip - I am 11 years old. May parents have been divorced for 1 1/2 years. I like to play baseball, do soapbox derby, make bookcases, play with friends, and watch TV.
Drew - I am 11 years old. My parents are in the process of getting a divorce. I like to play baseball, play basketball and collect cards.
Brittany - I am 10 years old. My parents have been divorced for 2 1/2 years. I like to swim and play basketball.
Chapter 1 ~ Feelings About Divorce
You will probably experience many different emotions or feelings when your parents divorce, like anger and sadness, or relief and happiness. It is okay to have these. It is normal. There are no right or wrong feelings.
Anger and sadness will probably be the strongest feelings you may have in the beginning. You may have pictured in your mind what your family should look like. Maybe you think you have a perfect family, or maybe you think it's like one you have see on TV. But then you get confused, because your family is torn apart. This can be really hard to handle. Sometimes your parents may even hide their feelings, so you won't get upset, or to protect you. This might make you think you shouldn't have any feelings, or be sad or angry. But you need to sit down and talk about what you are feeling. You need to get your feelings out. It is okay.
Chapter 2 ~ How You Handle Divorce
There are many different ways of handling your feelings when you experience your parents' divorce. Some people keep their feelings bottled up, or keep them inside of them. This can be a problem, because not dealing with your feelings can lead to lots of problems like stress, depression, bad dreams, health problems, shutting other people out, or acting out and getting in trouble.
A good way to handle your feelings and help with your pain is to: keep a journal and write in it about what
you think, feel or did; write a list of good things and bad things; write a letter to someone you can share; with talk to a counselor, family member or friend; write your bad things or stressful things on a piece of paper and rip it up; hit a pillow; play sports or do activities; put your fears in a bag and smash it; when you play baseball see the ball as all the bad stuff, and the bat as the good stuff...and, hit the ball hard.
Chapter 3 ~ Custody
Custody is the legal word that just means which parent you will stay with, or which parent is in charge of you. It doesn't matter which parent you are with, you're still going to love them both no matter what. Sometimes you may be asked to pick who you want to stay with, and sometimes your parents know best.
You should always visit each parent. But sometimes, because of problems in your family, you may not be able to see the other parent because the Court says no. But, you still might be able to call the other parent, write them or letter, or email them. If you're still not allowed to do any of those things, you could just write the letters and keep them.
Custody not only means which parent you will stay with, but custody also sets up a schedule for when you will see each parent during the week, on holidays and even vacations.
Chapter 4 ~ Two Different Houses and Only One of You
When your parents divorce, one parent will usually move out. Your mom or dad may move to a relative's house, or an apartment, or even out of state, which means that they will live somewhere else, but not with you. This may make you feel torn apart, or like a soccer ball bouncing between two places. In the beginning it is difficult, and it may make you feel sad. You are not sure where to go, what you need, and it can be very confusing.
You may feel angry and upset because you can't see the other parent as much as you use to, or as much as you may want. Your parents may have a schedule of when you can see your other parent. After awhile, you get use to it. You know where your things are, and what you are going to need. You still may not like it, but that's your life now and it does become okay.
Chapter 5 ~ Parents Fighting
All parents, whether they are married or are divorced, have disagreements and fights. Sometimes when parents are divorcing there seems to be a lot more fighting, and it can get real loud. The fighting can be from anything to everything. The key is that you, the child, did not cause the fighting or the arguments, and most importantly, it's not the child's job to try and fix it.
Chapter 6 ~ Message Carrying
Message carrying is not good for the child. Message carrying is just what it says. It's when one parent doesn't want to talk to the other parent, and asks the child to tell one parent something he or she wants said, or deliver a message. It can make you feel angry, upset and sad. It's hard to see your parents get upset with one another because of something you just told them.
One way you can handle this is to tell your parents that you are uncomfortable delivering messages, and that it causes you to feel really torn. It's the parents that are divorcing, not the child, and it's the parents' job to talk to each other.
Chapter 7 ~ School Issues
When your parents are divorcing you may have a hard time concentrating at school. In the beginning, it seems like you are always thinking about what's happening in your family, or what's going to happen in your family. Your parents' divorce always seems to be on your mind. This makes
it hard to pay attention in class, to do your school work, to remember your homework, or even bring the right materials to school and class. Sometimes,
your grades may even fall or get worse. The good news is that this isn't permanent! If you work through your feelings, and talk through what's happening, you usually get back to your old self. This may take some time, but things usually improve.
You hear adults say, or people who give advice, that if you "stay active" it will keep your mind off of your worries. You know what? This is really true! Keeping active can be a way for you to keep your mind off of your worries. Different groups in school, or after school activities can be a real help. The old you in school will come back, it just might be a little bumpy for awhile.
Chapter 8 ~ New Changes
Divorce causes a lot of changes. Changes in your family, changes in your friends, changes in your feelings, and even a possible change in your home. All of these changes can affect your life in a big way.
When your parents divorce, that means one parent will be leaving. This means that you may have to move because your parents can no longer afford the house you are in, or you may have to live with the other parent, a guardian or a relative. This is a real big change, and one that could still change even after your parents have been divorced. Moving means that you have to leave your friends and make new ones. This can be real hard, and scary too. Just talking to your friends about moving, and why you have to move can make you feel uncomfortable. Besides one parent not actually being in your house anymore, moving is probably the next biggest change.
I know it may be hard to imagine, but sometime down the road your parents may remarry. This can be another big change for you. It's new people, new feelings - new everything. You still may have had thoughts, or even had a dream that your parents would get back together, and now with one of your parents getting remarried, you realize this won't happen. That's a real scary thought too.
Not all changes are bad, some can actually be good. Just remember that your parents love you, and it will be okay.
Chapter 9 ~ It's Not Your Fault
The most important thing to remember is that your parents' divorce is not your fault. Whatever has happened between your parents, you need to remember that you did not cause it. The divorce is not a result of you - the child. The reason your parents got divorced is the first place was because something between them was just not right, and not because of you. Remember, you can not change what has happened, but you can have an understanding that you did not cause the problem. It's your parents that are getting the divorce, not you.
You are right though, everybody whose parents go through a divorce feels like it's happening to them, and that's because your parents are fighting and yelling that you must have somehow been the problem. Some kids even think that if they had only acted a certain way that their parents' divorce just wouldn't have happened. And, that is just not true! The key is not to panic, stay calm, and as the title says...it's not your fault.