I was 18 when my parents first separated, 21 when they divorced. I was told the divorce wouldn’t affect me much because I was not a child, that it would be easier to get over because, as an adult, I could better reason about it. However, these are common misconceptions about adult children and divorce.

Over the years, I saw that the issues I dealt with are the same as those faced by young children of divorce. I have talked to numerous people whose parents divorced when they were grown, and the problems are universal. Here are six things I wanted my parents to see – from my point of view – things I wish every separated or divorced parent could see through their children’s eyes.

  1. I wanted honesty – even if it hurt. Throughout their separation and divorce, my parents explained to me what was going on, but it wasn’t always the truth. Inevitably, I would find out in other ways – overheard conversations, body language and the "real" scoop from outside family members. As much as it hurt, I wanted honesty rather than my parents’ pretending.

  2. I wasn’t "fine" emotionally. During my parents’ divorce, I often told them I was fine and acted normally even when I was really burying anger and sadness. When I put up walls, I needed them to try to break through to me. I needed permission to ask questions, and instead of getting defensive, they needed to listen and apologize for their failures.

  3. I often felt caught between my parents. In the midst of their pain, my parents would slip phrases in such as "Your mother did this," or "Your father is at fault." While I understood they were only releasing frustration and hurt, I felt caught in the middle by their negative comments about one another. Asking me to relay information to the other parent, or getting upset because I decided to spend Christmas with one of them and not the other, only contributed to my feelings of resentment and frustration.

  4. I couldn’t handle my parents’ emotional problems. Sometimes my parents would come to me with emotional wounds from the divorce, and the burden was difficult to handle. Though discussing certain aspects of the divorce with them actually contributed to my healing, I couldn’t fill the role of counsellor or friend by discussing their deepest emotional issues. I wanted them to confide in other adults for the help and support they needed. When they shared with me, I felt awkward and more confused; as a result I often found that my view of the other parent became tainted.

  5. I didn’t enjoy the extra Christmas gifts. It can be easy to give material things as a way to compensate for a divorce. But I always saw the motive behind the extra gifts and attention. Instead of gifts, I just wanted to know that I still had my parents’ unconditional love.

  6. I didn’t expect my parents to be perfect but to show character. Through my parents’ divorce, I could see where their faults lay. Still, I needed them to admit their mistakes and strive for godly character. I wanted them to use the tough times as an opportunity to grow in their relationship with God and to show me how to grow in mine as well.

When my parents divorced, it hurt me deeply. That pain was compounded when they were dishonest with me, talked negatively about the other or expected me to take the place of a counsellor. A couple of years later, when they began to address their choices with character, love and maturity, I found healing not only from the pain of the divorce but also in my relationship with each of them.

Sandi Greene is a young mom and pastor’s wife.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.

Our recommended resources

Join our newsletter

Advice for every stage of life delivered straight to your inbox