Most parents considering divorce are concerned about the reactions of their children. And that’s a worry not just for parents with young children. It’s important to consider how will your teenager be impacted by your divorce.
Gregory Smith was divorced at age 26 but that wasn’t his first experience of divorce. His parents’ had divorced about ten years earlier. Here, Gregory reflects on the impact their divorce had on him:
I don’t know that age 16 was a difficult age to experience your parents’ divorce. I think it would probably have been more difficult at an earlier age because I was able to process everything that was happening. My father was a heavy drinker at that time. He was a real estate agent, and my mom, who was a homemaker, was really tired of his belligerent behavior.
It was interesting to see that she couldn’t stand him, and that he drank so much that it was difficult to be around when he would come home at night. It was probably better for everybody that he didn’t come home and that he went elsewhere. He and I actually had a better relationship after he divorced my mom and lived elsewhere.
During college I lived with each of them for periods of time.
My mom was always very consistent so there was no real renegotiation with her. I pretty much understood everything that she was going through. And, yeah, I kind of agreed with her decision.
With my father, he kind of went into kind of a downward spiral in the year to two years after he divorced my mom. He had a suicide attempt. I think he had a lot of regrets. But there was no going back to my mom because she hated him. She hated the way that she had become basically. And so he wound up marrying somebody else I think about roughly three years after he divorced my mom.
I lived with them for a period of about I want to say a year, year and a half, while I was in college. So I think that the second wife was good for him, and I think he was able to reach equilibrium with respect to everything that had happened and what he did, and his own behavior. He was a heavy drinker. That pretty much was always still true and that’s not good for any relationship in my opinion.
I didn’t really respond to him dating. I was pretty neutral toward it at the time. I had my own life that I was living. I was going to college full time, and I also worked 30 hours a week. So I was pretty self-absorbed or self-consumed with doing my own thing at the time, and everything else was kind of a side show I would say. And what he did on the side it didn’t really affect me that much. I met some of his girlfriends at the time, but it wasn’t anything that I would say affected me one way or the other.
He would have been in his fifties at that point, and I was 19 so dating in college is different than dating in your fifties.
My mother never really dated. If you asked my mom she would say that my father ruined her taste in men.
The Divorce Coach Says
I’m not sure if a parents’ divorce is easier to handle as a teenager than as an adult, a tween or younger. There will always be issues no matter the age of the child. Those issues are different, not necessarily harder or easier to deal with and even adult children find their parents’ divorce challenging.
Gregory is now in his fifties so he’s reflecting on an event that happened some forty years ago. His current perspective is inevitably different than what it would have been had our interview happened when he was in his 20’s. I see that as cause for optimism: many parents feel guilty about ending their marriage and their child having to cope with two homes and all that that entails. And while there will always be a transitional period when children may react negatively, their perspective changes as the family adjusts to the new situation.
While it may take time, many parents have told me that at some point their children have told them that they understand why the marriage ended. That was my experience too. This happens without you having to give detailed explanations. As children start to see each of their parents as an individual as opposed to a parenting couple under the same roof, they experience their respective parents’ behaviors and they get to know their parents as individuals. With that comes understanding. And even more reassuring that understanding won’t change their love. They can understand why you couldn’t stay married and still love you and their other parent.
The other message I get from Gregory’s story is that he was busy living his own life and that insulated him from the after-effects of his parents’ divorce. That means when considering the impact of your divorce on your children, try looking at it from where child stands – the more you can keep the same about their life, the less impacted they will be. Recognize that your marriage and its breakdown may not be the center of your child’s universe, especially if your child is a teenager, and that’s a good thing. Your job is to keep it that way.
Find out more about Gregory Smith at MidLifeBachelor. Visit Amazon for an electronic version of How To Successfully Recover From Having Been Cheated On or here, for a printed version.
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