Personal Story

What Adult Children of Divorce Wish They Could Tell Their Parents Now

written by ANONYMOUS
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

When I was 5 years old, my parents got divorced. I don’t remember much of the experience. All I knew was that Mom and Dad lived a town away from each other, and my ride to school had gotten longer. My sister, on the other hand, was much older. She remembers much more of the tumultuous time. The sounds of arguments and slamming doors are something she’ll never forget and something I’m grateful my young mind sheltered me from.

Looking back now as an adult, I see how the divorce affected me nonetheless. It was hard going to friends’ houses and seeing their parents happily married. And growing up, picking sides felt like being in a love triangle I didn’t ask for. I hated how “going home” for the holidays in college meant going to the town my mom lived in at the time, not the hometown I grew up in. And I learned quickly that “bringing someone home to meet the family” was an orchestrated event. Through it all, though, I wouldn’t have wanted my parents to stay together.

Even with the healing that comes with time and maturity, I think most children of divorce hold things in that they wish they could say to their parents. Whether you’re a child of divorce yourself or a parent making one of the most difficult decisions of your life, we wanted to hear honest thoughts from those who have gone through it. Here, you’ll find what children of divorce want their parents to know but may never say out loud. Be it healing, words of encouragement, or sage advice for moving forward, we hope you find what you need here.

What Children of Divorce Want Their Parents to Know

Don’t Delay the Inevitable

When parents are contemplating a divorce, the million-dollar question is often: Should we stay together for the kids? See what one respondent had to say.

“Don’t delay the inevitable. Don’t stay together for the kids. Just be honest. We knew it was going to end, but instead, we had to live through years of awkward tension, strategic avoidance, and fighting. It built resentment that, to be honest, is still there.”—Brian, age 42, parents divorced at 18

On Navigating the Transition

Divorce is one of the most emotional times for everyone involved. It’s one of those life moments no one goes into knowing exactly how to navigate. Take this advice from grown children of divorce to help navigate the life-altering transition.

Let Me Still Be a Kid

“If you have children who are older, please make sure that you are providing them with space to still be a kid and enjoy their youth even during this time of difficult transition. Especially if you have an eldest daughter, it’s likely that that child will take on certain adult and parenting responsibilities as you each process the massive change in your domestic situation. This is inevitable, but it should be recognized and appreciated, and your oldest child should still feel like they have some time in their day-to-day life to be a kid. Just because you likely need extra support during this time does not mean that your eldest child is ready to take on parenting-level responsibilities. 

Also, if your children are high school age or older when you are getting divorced, it’s likely that you and your child will go through certain life-lesson learning moments at the same time in the years following the divorce. This can be really difficult, but know that it doesn’t make your child see you as any less of their parent, even if you’re both learning how to have a consistent cleaning-the-house routine at the same time or are both learning truths about the patriarchy at the same time, etc.”—Emma, age 23, parents divorced at 17

Be Conscious of My Feelings and Wants

“It’s easy to feel like a ‘possession’ being fought over during a divorce (and well after). I wish I had more of a say when it came to visitation schedules, especially as I grew older.

Both of you had different expectations of me, and it became more difficult to figure out my own identity as I grew because I felt I had to be one person with one parent and another person with the other. I wish that had been different.”—Stephanie, age 27, parents divorced at 10

what children of divorce wish they could tell their parents
Source: Canva

Learn to Coexist Peacefully, For Our Sake

Children of divorce tend to agree: We don’t want to pick sides, and we want you to put your differences aside and coexist as peacefully as possible. Understandably, no one wants to hear one parent talk badly about the other. In many cases, children of divorce love both of their parents and want the best for them. See what two respondents had to say about keeping the peace.

“After it’s over, find a way to coexist peacefully. It might be awkward at first, but deal with the discomfort. Just be normal about it.”—Brian, age 42, parents divorced at 18

“After it’s over, find a way to coexist peacefully. It might be awkward at first, but deal with the discomfort.”

“You both had faults. I didn’t need to hear either of you talking about them. You never made me ‘choose sides,’ but any impressionable child will feel conflicted when they hear all the nitty gritty details.”—Stephanie, age 27, parents divorced at 10

On Dating and Re-Marrying After Divorce

Seeing parents date after a divorce can be one of the most jarring aspects of this new “normal.” While each person’s views on this may be slightly different, there are some commonalities in responses. Overall, we wish we could tell our parents to take their time, to not forget about us, and to think long and hard (and potentially not do it at all) about re-marrying.

Keep Us in the Equation

“If you are going to start dating somebody new, keep your children in the conversation. Ask your children how they feel about you dating and ask them if they even like the person you are dating. Make sure they feel comfortable with the situation before you start making decisions and forcing a new person into their lives without getting their input. Don’t expect your children to love your new partner, and don’t make them feel bad for not wanting to spend time with them.”—Anonymous, age 26, parents divorced at 11

Please Take Your Time

“You’re both going to start relationships with other people. That’s totally fine. But I wish you had taken more time to be alone first. More time to figure out what life without each other felt like. More time to let us all adjust. Just more time.”—Stephanie, age 27, parents divorced at 10

“Now that I’m older and have gone through significant breakups of my own, I think it would have benefited me if you hadn’t rushed into new relationships right after the split. I wish I had seen you take the time to be alone, really heal, and ready yourself for the next relationship you got in.”—Brett, age 27, parents divorced at 5

On Second Marriages

“Don’t make your children come to the wedding if you decide to re-marry—or just don’t re-marry.”—Anonymous, age 26, parents divorced at 11

“Date, have fun, do what you want to after the divorce, but do not get married again. Do not force a new family upon your children and expect them to accept it.”—Brian, age 42, parents divorced at 18

what children of divorce want their parents to know
Source: Canva

Thank You for Doing Your Best

We learn early on that parents are people, too, and we see that you’re all just doing the best you can with what you have at the time. There are a few things that really stick out to us and are appreciated during this difficult season.

“Thank you for putting me first, always. No, the execution wasn’t always perfect, but you both tried your absolute best to put my needs first. You were both there through every phase, every challenge, and every triumph regardless of your differences. Yes, the divorce changed everything. No, living out of an overnight bag for nearly a decade was not ideal. And the concept of a ‘happy family’ was shattered before I even hit puberty. But your divorce taught me that not all families have to look picture-perfect to be filled with love and support. Ultimately, you guys did your best, and you’re both still there for me (and now my family), even in adulthood. Your constant presence and love is something I will never take for granted.”—Stephanie, age 27, parents divorced at 10

I’m Happy For You

A lot of emotions kids feel during divorce, no matter what age, are negative. That doesn’t mean we think you made the wrong choice, though. And it can be very rewarding as a kid to see our parents happy, even if the route to get there wasn’t perfect.

“As much as I wanted the white-picket-fence upbringing, I’m actually glad you two didn’t drag out a marriage that wasn’t right for you. You, especially, mom, deserved to be happy and no longer be in a toxic relationship. I’m happy you got out, found your independence, and someone better for you. And I thank you for helping me find the same.”—Taylor, age 32, parents divorced at 12

“As much as I wanted the white-picket-fence upbringing, I’m actually glad you two didn’t drag out a marriage that wasn’t right for you. You, especially, mom, deserved to be happy and no longer be in a toxic relationship.”

“…Please know how exciting it can be for your child to see you truly come into your own after your divorce. Just because the transition will be difficult for them does not mean that they won’t benefit from watching you set boundaries and live your life the way you want to live it after you get divorced. As you start to become more comfortable in your single self, they will hopefully interpret this as a wonderful new example of personal independence to learn from.”—Emma, age 23, parents divorced at 17

I’m Going to Be OK

“Mom—more than anything, I think the divorce meant that my definition of ‘home’ will be skewed for a long time. The word will long be attached to people more than a place, and more than once, I will learn the hard way that people don’t always stay. I will search for a place to call ‘home’ for a long time, but I will find it, and I’ll be OK—really, really happy even. When you see me start to heal, please be happy for me. Please don’t feel guilty for putting me through something I had to heal from. I look up to you—and I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. Even when I didn’t come home to the same four walls every day, you were always my safe place, my shelter, and my protector, and I thank you for that.”—Anonymous