About half of all marriages in the US end in divorce. How many children need therapy because of this, we’ll never know. On the flip side, children with unhappily married parents might also be a little affected.
Either way, Mom and Dad, from the time you were together to now, the memory of your divorce remains etched in many of our minds. In fact, here are 12 experiences we children of divorce may never forget:
1. We remember the good times
When we sat together as a family at the dinner table, played games, and laughed. We look back fondly on our holiday traditions. Or the times we all piled into the car and took family road trips, playing 20 Questions and singing “B-i-n-g-o” all the way.
2. We remember the arguments
When you looked mad, raised your voices, and called each other names. We felt scared when this happened – worried you might leave one another, or us.
3. We remember the moment you told us you were getting a divorce
How you said, “We don’t love each other anymore, but we still love you,” and “It’s not your fault.” We can still picture where we were sitting, and the room all around us – much like you might remember where you were when you learned John F. Kennedy or John Lennon was shot.
4. We remember how the news of your divorce made us feel
We may have cried our eyes out, or – if we were too young to understand what “divorce” meant — we may have just pretended to be sad so as to not hurt your feelings. The real tears would come later when the reality of our new situations without one of you at home sunk in.
5. We remember the first night you tucked us in after the news
You asked us how we felt. Hugged us a little longer. Disguised your tears in your attempt to stay strong for us.
6. We remember visiting your new home after the split
It was small, but nice. Empty, but clean. A seemingly lonely space, but a place where we could have you all to ourselves, with your full and undivided attention.
7. We remember your struggle
How we had to tighten our belts for a while so you could make ends meet. Do the laundry and wash the dishes more often. Or eat more TV dinners and takeout than ever before. All of it was character building, and kind of fun.
8. We remember being spoiled
You felt guilty for getting divorced. We knew and capitalized on this – asking for and getting sweets at the grocery store, new clothes and toys and later bedtimes.
9. We remember your first new boyfriend or girlfriend
It was weird to see you with your rebound guy or gal. At least at first, we didn’t like this person – or even how you were behaving for that matter – but we pretended to out of politeness.
10. We remember watching you lose and then find yourself
We recall seeing you alone, fending for yourself, and eventually finding your stride. Like a metamorphosis, you came out of the transformation from married to newly single a changed, better, happier person.
11. We remember how you conducted yourself
Everything you said about your ex – our other parent – remains etched in our minds to this day. If you kept your comments positive, we turned out OK. If you revealed too much about why our Mom or Dad drove you to divorce, we needed therapy to process what you were saying before falling in love, getting married, and starting families of our own.
12. We remember the big picture
We realized how much better off we were being raised by the separate, happier versions of you. How you taking care of yourself by ending your unhappy marriage was ultimately what was best for us.
Unhappily married parents: if you decide you’re better apart than together, make your divorce as easy as possible on your children. Be polite to each other, and positive when speaking about one another in front of your kids. You might also benefit from checking out Dr. Phil’s 9 Biggest Divorce Mistakes That Impact Your Kids.
Children of divorce: take some time to reflect on how your parents’ split made you feel then and now. Imagine what your life might have been like if your parents stayed together, yet remained unhappy. Appreciate how your parents’ divorce helped each of them take better care of themselves so they could take better care of you.
Featured photo credit: Basket with Colored Easter Eggs/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com