Although my divorce has challenged me to grow and become a better person, I sometimes (all the time) have doubts about how it affects my daughter. At 11 years old, my child is a precocious pre-teen, who recently answered in a questionnaire for her Literature teacher that the worst thing that’s ever happened to her was having bad dreams. While I truly hope that is true and remains true, as a parent, and especially as a parent who had to try to minimize the damaged caused by a broken home, you wonder, hope, pray, that your child isn’t ruined in the future for the decisions made by her parents.
I recently connected with Linda through social media. We both are a part of a launch team for Lewis Howes’ new book, The School of Greatness, which is coming out next week (and which I will be reviewing here in the next post). Linda saw some of my posts on divorce here and reached out to me to see how she could help. Since I’ve been feeling mom-guilt and parental inadequacy (is that a thing? Because if it isn’t, I just made it up, and it’s real) lately and really thinking about how divorce will affect my daughter as an adult and in her future relationships.
Linda is a child of divorce, and she shares her story with us in the interview below. Linda was only a baby when her parents divorced (she is now a 25-years-old marketer for a health-focused construction company in the Rocky Mountains as well as a Beach Body coach part time), and so her experience may differ from what some of you may be experiencing with older children. She shares how coming from a broken home, raised by a single parent affected her, and she took the time to answer some of my questions below.
Hi Linda, please share your background.
My parents got divorced when I was only a year old. Although I don’t remember it happening, I always thought of it in the back of my mind. I grew up in a middle to upper-class neighborhood on Long Island, NY while my Mom was struggling to pay rent living paycheck to paycheck. I remember parents giving their children $100 to go shopping at the mall, and I thought that was the most money in the world, while I brought $20 along from lunch money saved for the month. I thought if only I had parents to support me, instead of a parent, I’d be just as happy as these kids! My mom didn’t help with the negative attitude she had about my Dad. Instead of growing my own opinion about him, I developed HER opinion.
We didn’t have money because of HIM, I had to share my bedroom because of HIM, he only cares about himself, and it goes on. It wasn’t until I went off to college when I started to become GRATEFUL for my parents divorce. Why? Because I realized I have become much stronger from it. I got a job at 16, saved up almost $10,000 before I entered college, knew how to live independently, without relying on income from anyone besides myself. I matured much earlier in life, and I embrace my relationship with both of my parents. They have still influenced me even though I did not grow up with them living together.
How did you feel when you learned your parents were divorcing?
Although I was too young to notice, I don’t think I would have felt anything. When your Dad isn’t around to begin with, divorce seems like part of the plan.
Did your parents do anything to help you through the divorce? What was it and did it help?
My elementary school offered a program called ‘Banana Splits.’ The kids with divorced parents would meet during recess, and we’d share our stories, play thought-provoking games, and build relationships. I looked forward to meeting with kids that have been through the same struggles as I had. It was a positive environment and definitely helped.
Did your parents do anything to make the process harder? What could they have done to change it?
The only thing that made it hard was the negative comments I heard from my Mom about my Dad. Although my Dad was the bad guy, I have never heard him speak one bad word about my Mom. Not once.
What three words describe your feelings during the divorce. What three words would you use now, as an adult?
Happily Ever After.
Why? Because all of my Dad’s children turned out to be amazing individuals. My oldest sister is an amazing Mom, my older sister is a successful business woman, my brother has his own niche, and I am ready to experience the world. We all grew up with a drive to become successful and to use the relationships my Dad had as an example of what not to do. My older sisters are happily married, and I am in a healthy loving relationship with my boyfriend of 7 years.
Who was the most helpful person through the divorce? How did they help you?<
I’d say my best friend, Nicole. She would give up her recess to go to the Banana Splits program with me. And whenever I was upset that I wasn’t handed the same things she was, she reminded me that I have become much stronger because of it.
How did the divorce affect you in your adult life?
It was hard not having a father figure around. My Dad is more than a friend to me than a man who had authority over me. I never needed his permission to do anything. My mom acted as both roles. She was emotionally there for me, and she was the man around the house. It was inspiring to see her take on so many tasks including cooking, cleaning, working full time, picking up after us, fixing broken household items, at the same time giving us the attention we needed.
What is the most important thing you learned from your experience?
The most important thing I learned from this experience is that although my parents did not enjoy each other’s company, they enjoyed mine. If it weren’t for their love, it would have been much harder.
What do you think is the most important thing a parent can do for their child after a divorce?
To watch, listen, give us space, but show your child that you acknowledge their struggles. Ask your child questions, they’ll answer when they’re ready.
What is the one thing you think is important for parents to know about their kids and divorce?
They need your support. They want to form their own opinions about their parents, not yours. This was not the case for me, but I see parents who shower their children with gifts thinking this will make them happy, this will not make them happy! They need to feel loved, supported, and inspired by you. They should look up to you and be proud of how you made it on your own.
If you could go back and tell your younger self something, what would it be?
You did everything right. You may have smoked weed at the age of 14, drank alcohol at the age of 15, but, you had a good head on your shoulders, and you learned at a young age what was right and what was wrong. By the time you turn 18, you’ll be over that life, and you’ll be focusing each day on how to better yourself, mentally, physically and financially.