When Your Parents Divorce and It’s Time for Dad to Leave Home

These days many children are raised in nuclear families, where their father lives away from the family home and there are perhaps several significant male role models. A step father, grandfather, school teacher, neighbour, family friend may all feature in a variety of important ways in a child’s life. However, adjusting to the new domestic setup can be a worrying time for a young person, as they may also have concerns as to why their father is no longer living at home; were they in some way responsible, were they the final straw behind his decision to eventually go?

Let’s look at some of the concerns you may experience when your parents divorce and it’s time for Dad to leave home:

– He’s decided to focus on his own life and wants to forget about us. You may feel hurt and angry, wonder if you’d become too much of a burden and an inconvenience for him. Understand that you were not responsible for his decision to leave, that leaving you was the toughest part of any decisions that he took, that he probably felt it was best option for you and your family as a whole. Your parents’ relationship failed and it was that the prompted their decision to end an unhappy relationship. But many young people wonder about their father’s loyalty and feel that he’s being selfish in leaving home.

– It’s important that you don’t take the breakdown of your parent’s relationship personally and feel rejected or unlovable because of it. You may find yourself wondering if it was something to do with you, your behaviour, an unacceptable aspect of your character that prompted your father to decide it’s time for him to leave home. Surely if he really loved you he would have had to stay, wouldn’t have been able to bring himself to go. You may even speculate that the decision caused him to feel relief, at long last he was free to do what he wanted, free from the responsibility of having to consider you.

– You may find it frustrating if you’re not included in discussions about your future living arrangements, if you’re not asked where or with whom you’d like to live. It’s often assumed that children will live with their mother as it’s frequently the more practical option, but you may have a better relationship with your father and would prefer to live with him if you had a choice. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, at least at the outset, and accept that your parents are also trying hard to make sense of their situation. Some of their decisions may be revised over time.

– You may feel that you’ve been relegated to his past, are now considered to be a part of the life that he’s walked away from. If you discover that there is someone new in his life, possibly someone with children of her own who live with her/them that can be especially hard to come to terms with. Ask for time and sensitivity as you get used to the new situation.

It’s understandable to feel hurt, jealous, rejected if you imagine him spending time, being attentive and loving to his new family. Share how you’re feeling, maybe find a grandparent, family friend, teacher who you can talk things through with and who will be supportive of you. Try to establish a routine with your father so that you know when you’re going to see him, that you can get in touch by phone or email, spend time alone with him and/or with your siblings.

– Refuse to be drawn into discussions about either parent’s faults, failures or shortcomings. If you feel yourself getting sucked into these types of conversations try to be firm and explain that it’s upsetting you. If that’s not possible try to talk about your situation with a sensitive adult like a grandparent or family friend.

Divorce causes huge disruption in everyone’s lives and your parents lives are no exception. Emotions run high and you may feel confused, not sure how you’re feeling or may not wish to reveal the extent of your upset for fear of causing further distress or anguish to your parents. And it may have been that the tension between your parents had gradually, over time become accepted as an unpleasant but normal part of everyday life.

When parents decide to divorce it’s important for them to be sensitive to their children’s needs and provide as much stability and reassurance as possible. Appreciate that they’re trying to do their best for you even though they may be struggling with their own abilities to cope, adapt and recover from the turmoil. Be patient, find yourself an ally and take care to look after yourself, knowing that things will gradually settle down for you all.

Albert D. Sant