There are millions of adults today who experienced the trauma of their parents’ divorce 20, 30, 40 or more years ago. Some have found closure, but many more have not. Regrettably, it is a time in a child’s life that is never forgotten. It stays with you; it is part of who you are. Anyone who has experienced it knows it isn’t only about divorce. It’s about the years of tension in the home leading up to the divorce and those commonly miserable years after the divorce.
Fifteen years ago, Miami-Dade became the first county in the United States to not grant a divorce to a couple with children until the children completed the Sandcastles Program for children of divorce. Since then, more than 300,000 children of divorce have completed the Sandcastles Program internationally and it continues to help children share their deepest emotions and gain a feeling of normalcy.
We’d like to think it all stops there in the past. Sadly, our childhoods remain a part of our adult fabric for better or for worse, and with divorce in our past, there is a load of negative that never goes away. It seems that since divorce has become ubiquitous, it presents people with this sense that it shouldn’t be discussed as though you’re whining. After all, lots of people went through what you did as a kid. Who wants to hear about it? Move on, get over it. How long can you keep rehashing the same old stuff? Give it up!
Yet the idea of swallowing and pretending it all away is what gives significant power to the problems in the past. Consider that in my recent study of 379 people who were children of divorce:
89 percent believe their parents’ divorce clearly had a negative impact on their life, while 45 percent label the impact as severe.
80 percent have experienced severe sadness or depression.
72 percent feel their parents’ divorce impacted their ability to sustain close relationships.
The majority feel their parents’ divorce has undermined their self-confidence and ability to trust.
It is divorce’s nasty little secret. It’s why you are afraid of sounding weak if you talk about it — to others as well as yourself. It’s understandable. After all, you don’t want to feel life is holding you back just because of what happened to you as a child, especially because it wasn’t your fault. Unfortunately, pretending the feelings away won’t get you where you want to be.
If you are an adult who was a child of divorce, give yourself permission to look back and be honest with yourself. Even as an adult, you can heal from your past and create a new future that is less reactive to what once was. Like so many in my study who know they’ve been affected, it is possible to heal. The first step in helping yourself is to open up and allow yourself to recognize how your parents’ divorce has affected you. Opening up is the beginning to finding a path of change.
Next, you can connect how you feel today and start to notice that those feelings are reminiscent of what it felt like as a child – and learn to choose a different sense of yourself. It takes time and focused energy. It is the subject of my new book in which research participants followed a detailed program to help them learn about themselves and make significant changes. Perhaps for the first time for so many, adult children of divorce can face their issues, grow from them and rid themselves from the ill effects.
To learn more about Gary’s just released book, The Long Way Home: The Powerful 4-Step Plan for Adult Children of Divorce, visit http://www.wiley.com/buy/0470409223.
To receive discounts on Gary’s Creating Your Best Marriage 11 DVD set program, go to http://www.NeumanMethod.com and use coupon code Jewishpress or call 7343Neuman (734-363-8626). Tweet Gary questions at twitter.com/mgaryneuman and follow Gary at facebook.com/MGaryNeuman
About the Author: M. Gary Neuman is a psychotherapist, rabbi, and New York Times best-selling author. He is the creator of NeumanMethod.com video programs for marriages and parenting.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.