Divorce and the Effect it Has on Adult and Teenage Children

By: Shazya Akthar

Divorce shouldn’t be taken lightly, as they always impact the most important people in one’s life – children, especially teenagers and their own adolescence years.

Even though I was born in America and my parents are from Bangladesh, divorce is taboo there and generally in all desi countries. My dislike of divorce is not the result of my parent’s culture. What does annoy me is that some Bengalis believe divorce is a bad thing because they link it up to Islam, the main religion there. In truth, divorce is not taboo in Islam, yet people still hold onto that idea. What also annoys me is the way Americans are comfortable with having a divorce. A long marriage can end without much hesitation. It made me question whether they were actually in love and cared about their spouse in the first place. The divorce rate statistics in America is no joke. According to the American Psychological Association, around 40-50% of American married couples end up getting divorced.

In an article entitled, “Major Study Assesses the Children of Divorce” by the New York Times, Dr. Judith S. Wallerstein, the principal investigator of the California Children of Divorce Study, stated that, based on her research, younger children held no sort of guilt or responsibility for their parent’s divorce because they knew they were young when it happened. On the other hand, older children, around the age of 18 or 19, have vivid memories of their parent’s divorce and are scared of relationships breaking and fear of betrayal.

This made me decide to turn to my classmates and teachers for some insight into this issue.

Divorce at an early age

Kailana Dejoie, sophomore student at Senn, agreed with this research about younger kids, as her parent’s divorce happened when she was two years old.

Dejoie stated that her parents separated before she understood what was going on. Before the separation, Dejoie always saw her parents quarreling with one another and ultimately took out their frustration on her. She did try to confide in her friends, but she knew that didn’t help her escape her parent’s fighting. In the end, her father didn’t want to see his daughter suffer from the fighting, so he ended the relationship with her mother as soon as possible.

Now, did this divorce have any affect on Dejoie? Definitely, starting off with visiting her parents and the double life she lives with her mom and dad.

“At my dad’s place, I’m more reckless, but when I’m at my mom’s, I’m more serious about life,” Dejoie stated. “I’m like this because of my parent’s personalities. My dad is more lenient and I have a good relationship with my dad than my mom. I would still try to grow a strong bond with my mom, but it wouldn’t be nearly as strong as the one I have with my dad.”

Her parent’s divorce made her question whether or not true love actually exists.

“I won’t base my love life on someone else’s,” Dejoie stated. “I’m not afraid to love because in order to find happiness, you need to take the risk.”

She also gave advice to people who are dealing with their parent’s divorce currently or are going to get a divorce soon.

“Try to learn from their experience instead of avoiding it. You can’t avoid it emotionally, but you should try to take something away from it.”

Divorce in teenage years

Unlike Dejoie, sophomore Senn student, Yungchen Palden, didn’t have it very easy when her parents parted ways.

Palden’s parent’s divorced and a week before her eighth grade graduation. Palden was fourteen years old at the time.

Palden said she expected the divorce to happen because her parents kept arguing with one another.

However, the divorce had a severe impact on Palden’s health and emotional well-being. The divorce ultimately traumatized her, and she went through a depression, including anxiety and insomnia. Eventually, Palden went to a therapist and gradually, her pain went away. Physically, the divorce affected her relationship with her parents and her daily life.

“When my parents got divorced, my dad found an apartment,” Palden said. “His apartment was a close-walking distance, and I had to bring my clothes and art supplies with me. Even though I had a room to myself, the room didn’t have that home feel to it.”

About love and marriage itself, Palden was firm in her belief to not get married.

“When I was a kid, I thought about getting married. Now, I don’t want to. I don’t want to go through that process with a man I regret loving. I also don’t want my kids to go through that.”

Just like Dejoie, Palden had some warm advice she wants to give to those dealing with their parent’s breakup.

“I’d say get a support group. Surround yourself with good friends and people who love you who are not family. Try to get a therapist as well. They will help you a lot. And remember, try not to resent your parents for the divorce. Understand their perspective. They’re still your parents, and don’t blame yourself for the divorce. It’s not your fault.”

Divorce for Adults

Divorce is not always a bad thing, though.

Sebastian Szewczyk, history and diverse learners teacher at Senn, stated that his parent’s divorce helped him become more responsible.

“I had to start going to work because my mother was going to have less money, and all my brothers had to start going to work,” Szewczyk said. “After their divorce I worked hard through college. Overall, it had a positive effect on me because it gave me more responsibility, and I started to thrive in that type of setting.”

Like Palden, Szewczyk wasn’t on the bandwagon of getting married.

Szewczyk came from a family that was full of divorces, including his cousin, older brother, and uncle. His mother even divorced twice. His grandparents were the only ones who stayed married.

“But, no, I don’t really believe in true love. A lot of it has to do with what I have learned from my family. True love might be there for a year or two, but people change. I feel like when it comes to relationships and marriage, people stay in it quite too long sometimes. I don’t know how much good they are doing by staying in them.”

Nonetheless, Szewczyk still had advice for both teenagers and adults who are going through the process of their parent’s divorce.

“The first thing you got to do is accept it right away,” Szewczyk said. “You got to start believing that out of the divorce, happiness can happen for both sides of the party. Just accept it and hopefully it’ll lead to better things.”

Mr. Szewczyk wasn’t the only one who had the same realization about divorce.

Michael Cullinane, journalism teacher at Senn, stated that his parents separating was the right move they made for each other and the family.

“They seemed so ill-matched from what I heard from their relationship and from how I see them now, because of their personalities, they were probably a couple that shouldn’t have lasted that long. I don’t feel upset that they got divorced because they did what they probably had to do.”

However, there was a problem that arose from Cullinane’s parent’s divorce that did upset him.

“They don’t say bad things to each other, but yet they talk ill behind each other’s backs. That can be upsetting because you love both of your parents, so you don’t want to hear bad things about the other one.”

Since Cullinane is married, he also stated that he and his wife are trying hard to make sure they don’t end up in a situation like his parents.

“Both of us are really conscious of communication as being crucial and being honest,” Cullinane said. “We both really try to talk to each other and get to the bottom of what’s going on. It’s hard now with a son so we both plan stuff where we do stuff together. Talking is just more important than anything.”

A parent’s divorce is not always an easy thing to handle. It can be tough to bear, even if someone experienced it at a young age. In the end, things will work out.

“What I would tell young people is that one, it’s not the end of the world,” Cullinane said. “That life goes on and though it presents a lot of challenges, there are also opportunities to get to know your parents in a different light.”

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