Effects of divorce, separation vary in teen experience

final single parents chartOne of the many struggles for kids who go through divorce is the change of everyday living. According to a Sandpiper survey, 34 percent of CHS students have divorced or separated parents, and 57 percent of the students with divorced or separated parents live in two separate homes.

“My parents were never married so they just separated when I was very young. I think it was before preschool,” senior Annie Rooker says. “Since then, I have been switching from house to house, but not on a weekly basis. I would switch every two or three years.”

According to CHS guidance counselor Kate Miller, change in general is a difficult thing to overcome, and there are many changes that happen while kids go through their parents’ divorce or separation. Also according to Miller, there is a change in a student’s academics that is often noticed around the time a child is going through divorce or separation of parents.

Rooker has noticed her academics being affected throughout her parents’ separation.

“My mom and dad separated for a few reasons, but one of them had to do with the fact that my dad drinks,” Rooker recalls. “So while I was living with him, dealing with his drinking day after day, I would be too upset to focus on school work or study. I was in an unhealthy household so I would spend most of my time trying to avoid going home.”

For some students like junior Shelby Green, whose parents divorced when she was in seventh grade, the changes haven’t been so hard, and she says academics haven’t been affected.

“When my parents divorced, it wasn’t a big deal to me,” Green says. “Other than the fact I had to move to California from Utah and leave all of my friends, the divorce didn’t affect me. I still got good grades in school, and I was fine. I just knew that I would be at Mom’s this week and at Dad’s the next week. It’s not that bad.”

Although the switching from house to house can be a difficult change when it comes to divorce, not all children of divorce have to experience it. Of the CHS students who have gone through divorce, 43 percent live with only one parent.

For senior Caitlin Chappell, who solely lives with her mom, her parents’ divorce has been a positive experience and has given her a best friend: her mom.

“I couldn’t be happier that my parents are divorced. My mom has had full custody of me since the divorce, and we are happy,” Chappell says. “I have never switched houses between my mom and my dad. There were times I would spend the night at my dad’s when I was younger, but it was very rare.”

Chappell has made the best of her parents’ divorce and, because of it, has found her best friend.

For some students that go through a divorce or separation, a family member that isn’t a parent can become a mother or father figure.

“I was 6 when my parents divorced, and my mom has always had full custody over me and my older brother and sister,” sophomore Fatima Reyes says. “Both my brother and sister have become more than just my siblings. They have pretty much taken the role of my parents. They check on my grades, who I hangout with, etc. Even when I see my mom I don’t see her as my mom, just more like another person.”

Whether a student lives with one or both parents, one of the greater struggles for students of divorce or separation can be getting used to seeing their parents build new relationships.

“I wasn’t too upset when I found out my mom had a boyfriend because she actually waited until her relationship with him developed before introducing him to me,” senior Nick Mandurrago says. “On the other hand, I don’t really like how I met my dad’s girlfriend. I was sort of forced into meeting her one day without any warning. If I am going to be introduced to the people they are dating, I would rather do it on my time not theirs. I think anyone else would feel the same way for any situation.”

Because there are so many changes taking place in the life of a student of divorce, whether it’s dealing with the change of homes or in relationships, Miller says there needs to be some way to help a child deal with the process of divorce. According to the counselor, a big part of dealing with divorce or separation is communication. Whether it is with a friend or close adult, a student needs to talk to someone while they are going through this time of change.

“The students going through this need some way to communicate how they are feeling about the big changes happening in their lives when dealing with divorce,” Miller says, “and the students and staff here are ready to talk or listen to anyone that needs that communication.”

-Elexis Perez