4 Everyday Tips From a Child of Divorce

I wrote this article for Women’s Divorce.com as a resource for families who are going through divorce.

My parents divorced when I was 3. I was the only child of that marriage and both of my parents remarried within two years. Of course, it was a rough time, but I had lots of support. We saw family counselors and private therapists and I always felt emotionally supported as we developed the weekly switching and splitting up the holidays and birthdays.

Yet, looking back, I realized that the hardest part for me was the everyday aspect of living in two families and switching houses. It inspired me, as a now 22 year-old, to start working with recently divorced families on setting up their houses and schedules to streamline and avoid the common pitfalls. Kids who are experiencing divorce, love talking to a younger non-therapist figure who has been through what they are going through.

Here, I was hoping to give you some of these tips I share with my clients to make your life a little bit easier.

1) Get Doubles of Everything

I know that this seems expensive, but really it makes everything so much easier when you get doubles of everything. Here are the essentials that people do not usually think about. I always had a big bag that I took with me and it was stressful to have to ‘pack’ every week.

-Cell Phone Charger
-Computer Charger/iPod charger
-Underwear, socks, boxers, bras
-A few nice shoes/a nice outfit (just in case you have an event at either house)
-Running Shoes
-Two sets of textbooks
-School supplies (full desk set-up at each house makes it easy to do homework in both locations)
-toothbrush, toostpaste, shampoo, razors, facewash, soap, lotion, etc (no need to lug these back and forth)

2) Make a Launching Pad

You need to make a central place where everything is set up, which I call a launching pad. In the launching pad you will have one small bag or tote where your child can always pack the weekly things they need. Then on the wall or in the bag I laminate a full list of everything they always need to bring over with a little marker pen for them to mark it off as they pack, so they never forget anything when switching houses for the weekend or every week. (this takes a lot of anxiety out of the process to know you will have everything on a list)

___Gym Bag
___Permissions Slips for school
___Cell Phone
___Weekend clothes

Also have a blank laminated piece of paper (this can also be a white board) where they can write things they need to remember that are special for that week (such as an outfit for the dance, equipment for a traveling sports game etc). I often would remember things in the middle of the week and by Sunday night (when I switched) I could not remember what I needed.

3) Send Out a Memo

Many families choose to not ‘send out a memo’ to everyone in their lives about their divorce, either for privacy reasons or to not make it harder on their kids. But I found it really difficult to have to constantly explain the new situation to people and deal with their reactions. This is a big burden, so do try to tell people that your kids will encounter so they do not have to.

Also, I wish my parents had told all of my new teachers/ coaches/ tutors every new school year that I switched houses. For school plays, or in-class birthday parties I had to explain “oh, I need four tickets for my parents because they are divorced” Or, “its my moms turn to bring in cupcakes so can we have my food day be on a week I am at her house…” This always caused a lot of anxiety and can be handled by parents going in and having a meeting with the school or teachers at the beginning of the year and explaining the situation.

4) Find Other Young People

The few times I encountered other young people who had gone through divorce it was like a breath of fresh air. It was always nice to talk to people who were slightly older than me who had gone through what I was going through. They told me that it would be ok, or what they found it frustrating, and it was just nice to hear! So, if you can find other teens or young adults who have been through divorce, try to set-up a hang-out time or dinner with them and your kids; they might be able to open up in ways they would never to you or a therapist.

No matter what, tell them that you love them, it is not their fault and you are trying to make a difficult situation as easy as possible.

Please do consider sending this article to friends going through divorce! And be sure to send them to Women’s Divorce.com where there are tons of great resources and articles.

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13 Responses to “4 Everyday Tips From a Child of Divorce”

  1. Ann Marie
    March 10, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    I think it is amazing that not only were you able to turn your own experience with your parents divorce into somthing as positive as this article but that you work helping families through this process. I work for http://www.firstwivesworld.com, it is an online community for women navigating through the various stages of divorce and life thereafter. We have posted many articles and blogs on this topic and I have learned the importance of how parents handle this process in terms of their children and how it effects them.

    All of my best wishes
    Ann Marie

  2. Vanessa
    March 10, 2008 at 4:19 pm #

    Thank you!

    You know, there were some really rough times but for the most part I think with everything you have to see the silver lining and try to help other people through it, thanks for your website info! I will check it out


  3. ab
    March 11, 2008 at 5:42 am #

    what is so different and fresh about your website is that you speak our language, you feel our emotions and understand our issues.

    I look forward to reading more of your work. I am interested if you have any experience with domestic violence when the wife is convinced she is in the most ‘special relationship’ and that her husband is the ‘prince’ yet in reality he’s quite the opposite to everyone else around ?


  4. Vanessa
    March 11, 2008 at 7:59 am #

    hmm, that is a very interesting topic to think about. Domestic violence is very serious and you are right, it often does involve complete misperceptions by the people involved. I will have to think it over and try to post something for you = )


  5. Jean
    April 4, 2008 at 7:25 am #

    Vanessa – what are your thoughts on “staying together for the kids”? Do the benefits of a two parent home outweigh the cost of thinking that this is the way a relatinsship should be? Is it right for a parent to put their own well-being before the well-being of the children? I know that this is the age of Me Me Me, but shouldn’t sacrifice and sticking it out also be things your children should learn?

  6. Vanessa
    April 4, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    I think it is terrible when people stay together for the kids because the kids subconsciously or consciously pick up on the fact that their parents do not really love each other and then they either mimic it later or get mixed messages…especially if parents are fighting.

  7. CasperQ
    January 26, 2009 at 6:31 am #

    I have an 11 year old daughter; like your situation, her father and I have been divorced since she was 3. Unlike your situation, I did not remarry but he did.

    Can you give me tips on how to help my daughter when her dad complains about his ex (me)? Apparently he’s very, hmmm, vocal. I’ve let her know she doesn’t need to ‘defend’ me to her dad (that used to really bother her). Anything else I can say to help her out? My subtle mentions to her dad tend to fire him up, not quiet him down…

  8. Yoc
    June 20, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    Getting a divorce is never easy. Aside from the emotional anguish that both parties go through, there are also the legal processes that you have to deal with like spousal support, child custody and support, distribution of property and division of debt.
    In hard times like this, the best thing that you can do is to find a divorce lawyer who will not only inform you of all your legal rights but who will represent your best interests in court as well.


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