My Parents Are Divorcing. How Do I Choose?

I'm 15 years old and my parents just broke the news to me that they're getting a divorce. They both seem OK with this, and they want me to be OK about it too. But they told me I need to start thinking about whether I want to stay in this house with my dad, or go with my mom to wherever she ends up living. I don't know how far away that would be, whether I would have to change schools or whatever. They said it will probably be a month or so before I have to choose, and to take my time. This just kills me! I don't know how to choose. I feel like if I pick one, the other will think I love him/her less, and that's just not the case. I do harbor some resentment toward my mom right now just because I think she's the one who broke up the marriage, so maybe my dad needs me more right now, but I love them both the same. I'm so conflicted! I wish I didn't have to choose. I hate that they put me in this position. I just feel like crying forever. What should I do? —Torn Apart
Dear Torn Apart,

Even if parents seem OK with a decision to divorce, it does not mean that their children have to be OK with it. Divorce changes a child’s world in a pretty major way. It is OK and normal for a person in such a situation to feel sadness, anger, resentment, confusion, frustration, and anything else he or she might be feeling. It sounds like you are being asked to make some big decisions before you’ve had much of a chance to process how you are feeling about it all. It also sounds like you feel your parents have put you in a no-win situation. By making you choose, it seems you feel like you aren’t just choosing where to live, but taking sides. I’m sure that doesn’t feel very fair.

It is OK for children, amid divorce, to tell their parents what they are feeling. If any decision feels too big to make alone, it is OK to ask them for help. It is also OK to ask them if they can connect with a therapist or someone who can help a child sort through this situation.

It sounds like your parents are trying to figure things out, and maybe, by giving you the choice, they are trying to make you feel like you have some control in what seems like a situation that is so out of your control. They may be trying to help and let you have a voice in the process. That can actually be a really good thing.

A child whose parents are divorcing should feel empowered to let them know that it is making things hard and that he or she needs help, support, and guidance. Also, keep in mind that the choice you have been presented with might not have to be a permanent one. One option might be to try to finish the year where you are, thereby staying in your school through this year and then reconsidering in the summer what will work best for you.

I know this choice feels monumental—it doesn’t have to be. You also do not have to do this alone. By asking for the help you need, you will set yourself up to manage the changes that are coming without feeling as conflicted and overwhelmed as you feel right now.

Best of luck!

Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
  • Leave a Comment
  • Betsy

    January 10th, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    I am so sorry that you are having to go through this at such an impressionable age. It would never be easy, but at 15 it would almost seem even harder. Maybe there is a teacher or counselor at school who could talk with you and your parents jointly to help all of you come to some sort of decisions working together?

  • Ashleigh

    January 11th, 2014 at 5:06 AM

    I hope that by your parents asking for your input this means that they are willing to work with you to figure out what works best for your needs and not just what works best in their own little world right now. Sometimes we get selfish when going through a divorce, but I hope that your parents have the best interests of everyone in mind. Good luck to you, I know that they love you and don’t want you to feel like this is having to make a choice about who you love the most. They know that you love both of them and in all likelihood in the end they want to make this as easy for you as possible.

  • mariah campbell

    January 13th, 2014 at 3:56 AM

    This is a big decision that has been laid at your feet and to be so young has to make this even harder. I hope that your parents would be alright if you told them that you needed some help with making this kind if decisions. This is a choice that could impact where you go to school, if you have to leave friends behind, how often you see your other parent, all kinds of things.
    I am sure that you are already a perfectly responsible young person or they would automatically make this choice for you. But I just think that this is probably too much for you right now with all of the other stuff that you are going through. I think that you should start thinking about it for sure, but don’t feel like you have to make a final choice right now.

  • Winnie

    January 14th, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    Just refuse to make the choice, put it on them. Tell them that they are the ones who have brought all this on and so they are the “adults” make them make all the tough decisions. Not something that you should have to deal with.

  • glynnis

    January 16th, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    There is a section of society that I believe feels that divorce is so commonplace that kids will have no problem dealing with it but I think that this writer shows very movingly that there are still many who struggle with the emotions and feelings that divorcing parents bring out in them. It is hard for any of us to think about the fact that our parents once loved one another but that now they are breaking apart; and it is even harder when they are asking us to choose one or the other. This may not be exactly what they are asking but I am sure this is what it feels like. I have to say that many of the parents really so disappoint me because I feel like they are so busy meeting their own needs that they forget that there are children involved and that they need to consider what they are going through as well.

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