I was the type of child who believed in fairytales and finding true love, so the process of my parents’ separation was like a wound to the heart. I was hurt, but I didn’t express this to anyone. I never cried about it. I never talked about it. I tried to convince myself that it was a good thing—finally, something interesting happens to this family.
As I grew up without my mother in the house I became isolated from my family. I began to see the struggles of being the child of a divorced couple. Soon my bottled up feelings were beginning to settle in my mind. I have had days when I’ve cried and I didn’t know the reason why, but for the broken family I have. I can’t think about having a future marriage without thinking of my family’s history of broken relationships. This divorce is like a shadow I don’t want, it follows me and at the same time it is me.
As it turns out, it’s normal for teenagers to feel this way. Many kids today can relate to the struggles of having separated parents. The American Psychological Association states “About 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” With divorce hidden in about one out of two families, one would expect to see more media coverage of it or counselling in schools. If the population of today continues to overlook the consequences many children suffer from the effects of divorce, they are leading them like lambs to the slaughter.
One of the common effects of divorce is sadness in general. Mood swings and behavior changes don’t sound too horrific, but divorce can leave children in a depressive state for as long as years. It is already tough enough for children to learn that the two people who are supposed to be their loving protectors are breaking apart, but they also have to accustom themselves to seeing less of one of their protectors.
Tahnyi Brown is a student who attends Fenway High School. She is currently 14 years old and was 8 when her parents divorced. “I would sit with myself and think about how I would have turned out if my mom and dad were still together,” she said. “I probably would have been more enthusiastic.” Divorce can be something that haunts a child for long periods of time and ignoring this may lead to stronger depressive feelings.
Anxiety and stress is also another outcome of divorce. Divorce is infamous for its messy and complicated nature, and it definitely isn’t easy for the kids. When parents argue, it is often the child that is left in the middle to decide which parent to live with or whose side to take in an argument. This puts a great deal of unnecessary stress on them at a young age. Kids may also feel stressed for their parents who are now trying to adapt to being a single parent.
Yeilanise Noriega is a 14-year-old student who also attends Fenway High School. Her parents divorced when she was only 3 years old. I asked her if she felt like her parents’ divorce was a burden.
“Yes, because it means that I’m in the middle,” Noriega said. “I can’t even see them both at the same time cause one of them lives in Puerto Rico...Every day I would just wake up knowing that I only have my mom to rely on and my mom has to deal with all this pressure, so it is definitely a burden.”
Divorce is not simply a thing that affects the couple, but also a child’s everyday life, whether it’s moving from one parent’s house to the other or being left in the middle. Everyone knows that divorce can be difficult, but when kids grow up without knowing about this additional stress, it puts a strain on them.
Finally, one of the most concerning effects of divorce is the lack of healthy relationship examples or models. When children do not develop a general idea of what a healthy relationship is it plays a toll in their own relationships.
Josefa Tavarez is currently 43 with three children. Her parents separated when she was 3 years old, and she herself divorced when she was 41. Tavarez is a walking example of the cycle of divorce.
“It’s like a heritage of divorces in our family,” Tavarez said. “I didn’t grow up with a father. A father figure is important to daughters because the girls look for an image that is similar to their fathers.”
Without a father figure, girls may get into toxic relationships because they were never shown how a woman should be treated. Fear also plays a role in the cycle. “Before I got married, I was afraid to be in love,” Tavarez said.
There is a saying that goes “Do not fall in love, step on to it with steady feet.” Divorce has given many unsteady feet when it comes to relationships. Without a healthy idea of how to interact with loved ones, divorce can affect everything from friendships to dating in high school.
However, I refuse to let this chain carry on and you can too. I know who I am, although I am still learning and growing. I cope with the burdens of divorce by writing in journals, asking questions and learning all I can about my parents' marriage and what went wrong, connecting with other students who are going through the same situation as me, and learning from the good relationship examples around me. I know that I have control over my future and I choose to be the one who breaks free from the burden of my past—and every child who has faced the dreadful effects of divorce can do the same.