We discuss children of divorce in third person. They remain an anonymous source until we can back up feelings with research. The nature of writing about divorce does challenge blog writers. How can we write about the struggles of children undergoing the loss of their old family life? I decided to get a little personal and our offices spoke with a young woman whose parents recently divorced. She was happy to finally have a voice in all that has happened around her, to her. She met our questions with candor and as much humor as she could muster -- and thanked us. This is the first time someone asked how she felt about her senior year and the effect the divorce of her parents has had on her last year in high school.
Her senior year should have been stressful and jubilant in the way graduating seniors from the past have experienced the end of mandatory education. Her year, however, was fraught with realizations, encounters, griefs, and unexpected stressors. It’s left her exhausted, but she’s in therapy now. She admits to handling the first year of the divorce with destructive habits, but the therapy helps and she has adjusted to more healthy means of processing the chaos.
She says that balancing time with both of her parents this year has been a struggle: “You want to spend as much time with them as you can, but it’s hard because you have to split your time between them before you go to college.” Although her relationship with her father has never been what she’d call close, she still wants the time together. Her mother, the steadying force, has more work and stress surrounding raising the children on a reduced income. Between her mother’s schedule for work, helping to watch over her younger sibling, the volleyball team, academics, college applications, work, and a social life, she has little time to bond with her parents before she hits her next life transition: college.
As for college expenses, her father completely ignored any costs associated with the process. She and her mother absorbed all costs. A scholarship saved her future. At least that portion of college stress is behind her and she can breathe for a moment before plunging into the next big decision.
Balancing time with her parents has not been the only issue involving her parents.The finances alone for senior pictures, prom, graduation, and college applications caused many disagreements between her mother and father. Her responsibilities now extend to mediating conflict concerning the financial pressures of graduation. Where one parent sides with her senior experiences, the other resents the expense: “My father didn’t agree with how much money my prom dress cost. He took months to pay if off. Now, I have a week to get shoes and everything ready. I’m pretty much screwed.” After prom plans, she felt the need to weigh graduation and her expectations. Her graduation night went from a joyful celebration to another source of contention. Family politics threatened to ruin any semblance of a family dinner: “Do I have dinner with dad? Dinner with mom? My mom has a boyfriend.” Conflict with extended family negates any family dinner she had hoped might occur. The sad part about much of this is seeing a time for innocence and joy met with crushing responsibility -- responsibility that falls on the child.
She has handled each decision with as much grace as possible and shrugged off the pain and fatigue in order to keep her spirits level; she’s made sacrifices and adjustments a parent never wants their child to need to make. She will be ready for the following years of growth and independence, but this glimpse into divorce and all of its effects is a tough one. After listening to her story, the divorce was the best thing for her family. A cold, abusive father was the norm in their household. They are learning, slowly, what love and family can feel like without that influence. Her senior year might not be the thing of teenage dreams, but it will shape her future for success should she hold true to the strength she has found.