It is almost 4 decades since my parents divorced and yet the ripple of that divide continues to influence and alter my adult life. When parents divorce, a whole family splits. While most parents tend to shelter their kids from the aftermath of divorce, for some of us, we as the children of divorce, are thrust into the wake of the decisions that follow. Then those decisions continue to impact our own. In midlife, I often wonder, what would be different if my parents had been gracious and amiable to one another? How might my parent’s own legacy have been impacted by kindness and empathy? What would be different for my brother and me today?
We can’t rewind, and you better believe I would not want to!
Yet, I understand so clearly how my own relationships and parenting skills are shaped and influenced by my own parents. There are so many things that no one tells you about being a family of divorce or an adult child of divorce. What follows are what I consider to be 7 true thoughts about growing up and in the wake of divorce.
Truth # 1: Every action has a ripple effect. My dad cut off my mom’s alimony a few years into their divorce. My mom then served my dad back alimony papers at the end of my wedding. How is this possible? Dad’s inability to live up to his end of the divorce deal, created not only tremendous stress for mom, but for my brother and I as we spent the better part of our adult lives supplementing her income. We became the parents of them way before age warranted that role reversal.
Truth # 2: We make choices based on our own experiences. Caught in their own solo pursuits and financial woes, my parents were simply not there for me as I graduated from high school or from college. The bridge between childhood and adulthood has many gaps and without proper parenting can be quite difficult to cross. I actually credit my in-laws for taking on some essential parenting for me in the first years of my marriage. Today, as a parent of adult children, I am overly cautious as to how I can help them to make their transition from high school to college or from college to the real world as meaningful as possible. I want them to be able to make choices based on what they can do, not on what they cannot do.
Truth #3: Make decisions from your head and your heart. This is key. Divorce is emotional and it can continue to be for years to come. When we do things just to overcompensate or conversely have no empathy at all, there is an imbalance that occurs. The best decisions we can make as children and as parents come from the combination of headspace and heart space.
Truth #4: You are not your parents. Although sometimes you may feel as if you are morphing into them, their lives are their lives. You can create a different legacy for yourself. Their split is not about you; it was about them and their own inability to be married. Get out there and create a life that is yours, not an offshoot of your parents.
Truth #5: There may be times that you feel unloved or second best. You are worthy and lovable nonetheless. Even as an adult it is common to feel that your parents’ divorce has them focusing solely on themselves and their own lives. They may make choices that reflect their best interests and not yours. You are loveable and you are important. Just as you in your own life will change with the seasons of life, your parents will also change as they age, as they forge new relationships, as they relate or don’t relate to each other and to you. This affects you, yet it does not define you. It defines them. Your broken home of the past does not dictate your home of the future.
Truth #6: Speak up: It is logical that you don’t want to add to the strain of divorce by taking sides or playing favorites. Yet make sure that in an effort to be amiable you are not losing your voice. If you feel like something is wrong, it probably is. If you don’t want to do a holiday with only one parent, make that known. I remember vividly my college graduation. My father opted not to come because my mother was going to be there. What??? In hindsight, I should have spoken up. While I firmly believe that I should not have been put in that situation, I think it would have been better to tell them both not to come unless they could both show up as adults and parents. So, have a voice for what feels right to you.
Truth #7: Adversity builds a better you. That is the truth! For many years my parent’s marriage and the financial and emotional fallout of that created some big mountains for me to climb. Yet climb I did. Having to think on my feet, be an adult a bit earlier, cope, manage, and often do without, gave me independence, grit, tenacity and a strong belief in myself. If I navigated my teens and 20’s okay, I could navigate the rest of my life okay as well. The tools and strategies I bring to my coaching practice today are largely founded on my own ability to understand and deal with setbacks and the downside of life.
Randi Levin CPC, founder & CEO, Randi Levin Coaching—is a nationally recognized transitional life strategist, author, keynote, and reinvention influencer. Randi supports women in redefining and curating their legacy as a power tool for living their best life today. Utilizing a “what’s next mindset,” Randi applies her Signature GPS Coaching System incorporating growth, purpose, success and a deep dive into fear, to empower women to pivot and refresh their perspectives. She is a featured expert for HuffPost, Thrive Global, DivorceForce, The Three Tomatoes, Women for One, and Better After 50. Sought after for keynotes and podcasts, Randi Levin Coaching is widely quoted and featured in top publications and media outlets such as The WSJ, ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, Reader’s Digest, Business Insider, and LA Talk Radio.
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