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Upset Over Parents' Divorce

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My parents just got a divorce and I don't know what to do! I'm surprised and sad. How do I cope?

A: I have never known a child who had an easy time dealing with her parents' divorce, even when it came as a result of obvious spousal abuse, repeated infidelities, drug addiction, etc. Even though almost one in two marriages end in divorce, virtually all those married couples never expect their relationships to end up that way. I would be worried about you if you were not feeling very sad, especially since you are surprised at their separation.

It's important that you know that you had nothing to do with why they got divorced. This was about their failure as husband and wife, as partners, not about your failure as their child. Most kids are not told about their parents' divorce in an appropriate way. I wonder if you have a lot of questions about their divorce because they did not sit down together with you and explain why they were getting divorced. If you haven't received enough information from your parents, please ask both of them to talk more with you. You also need to know what is going to happen now in terms of where you will stay, how often you will see both of your parents, what you are expected to say when people ask why they got need to be assured about a lot of things.

Talking with other kids in the same situation might help you deal with the situation, as well. You should also feel okay about asking your parents to arrange some individual counseling for you with a therapist who specializes in seeing kids of divorce. You have a lot to cope with right now and you should not be expected to shrug your shoulders, cry a little, and then just resume your life like nothing has happened. Don't keep your feelings inside; share them with other family members and trusted friends. I'm sure your parents will help you in any way they can.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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