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How to Survive Parental Break-up

Separation 251x300 How to Survive Parental Break upA parents’ separation will make you go through life somewhat like a storm. You may find yourself feeling depressed, tired, unable to concentrate, or even explosively angry at times. Or you may just feel numb. All of these are common reactions to an extreme situation.

However, thinking of it like a storm can help you in two ways. First, no storm lasts forever. The emotional turmoil you feel now will subside in time, as all storms do. And second, you can navigate your way through this storm. You don’t have to go under. But just as a ship in a storm must steer clear of the rocks, there are some rocklike dangers that can mean real trouble.

1. Setting your heart on your parents’ reconciliation. Christine remembers: “After they separated, my parents would take us out together sometimes. My sister and I would whisper to each other, ‘Let’s run ahead and leave those two together.’ “But,” she sighs, “I guess it didn’t work. They never did get back together.”

Remember, you cannot control what your parents do. You did not cause their separation, and in all likelihood you cannot step in and patch up their marriage either.

2. Feeling angry toward a parent. Anger and hatred may be the most lethal “rocks” you will face in this storm. Sonny recalls in his feelings at age 12: “I started to feel real anger toward my dad. I don’t like to use the word ‘hatred,’ but I had a terrible grudge. I couldn’t see how he could care about us if he left us. And I think I was saying inside that it’s my turn to let him know how I feel.”

Marital separation is rarely a mutual decision; so naturally, one parent may seem more blameworthy in your eyes. But in any case, how do you deal with the parent who seems more at fault? Should you hate that parent or try to avenge the wronged parent?

Remember first that a separation is almost never as simple as one parent being all “bad” and the other being all “good.” Your parents have probably not told you everything about their marriage or its breakup; they may not even understand it themselves. So avoid judging a situation about which you do not have the whole picture. Fortunately, God is the Judge of all such matters. He appoints you as neither the judge nor the punisher of your parents.

Granted, anger is hard to resist, and it is quite natural for you to feel upset right now. But nursing an angry and vengeful spirit can gradually poison your personality.

“Let your anger alone.” This is not suggesting that you pretend your anger doesn’t exist. If your parents’ actions have hurt you, why not try talking to them about it, respectfully opening their eyes to your point of views?

3. Handling the feeling of being torn between your parents. This can be an especially tricky “rock’ to skirt around. Tommy recalls: “The thing I dreaded most about visiting my dad was that my mom would question me intensely after each visit. And she really slanted things against him. I would say, ‘Come on, Mom! Why do you do this? Leave me alone!’ And she would get mad and force me to answer her questions.”

Sometimes parents use their children to carry angry messages from one to the other or even to spy on each other. It is unfair to you if your parents try to use you as a tool for revenge. But remember that they are going through tremendous emotional turmoil. So be as patient with them as you can. Talk to them. You may want to say, in essence, “Mom and Dad, I love you both. So please don’t use me to hurt each other.” Not that you should be uncooperative, refusing to carry any communication from one to the other. But if your parents get vindictive and vengeful, it is time to get out from between them.

By the same token, it would be hypocritical to play one parent against the other for your own advantage, saying things like: “I want to go live with Mom. She always lets me do what I want.” After separation, parents may feel very guilty about the stress they have caused their children and cling to them desperately. Children who are aware of the power they thus hold over their parents may be tempted to use it. But surely you don’t want to be manipulative.

One Response to “How to Survive Parental Break-up”

  1. Tiffany kenton says:

    I am having to go through something about the same my parents forces me to break up with a guy that I love. They say they want me to be happy but I don’t feel like they really do!! I’m trying to plz three ppl in my house for us. Us meaning me and my bf.


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