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It’s okay to say that not everything is okay!

Parents who ask how you feel all the time

Does your parent ask how you are feeling all the time? This may be because the parent has a bad conscience because of the divorce. Of course, some parents really want to know how you are in order to help you. But other parents ask to relieve their own bad conscience. They hope that you will answer that everything is fine so that they themselves will feel calmer. You do not have to give them that as a child.

It is easy to want to comfort your parent by pretending that everything is fine. But in the long run, it can hurt you. If you dare, it is better to be honest. Sometimes it can even help parents when you talk about how you actually feel. It can help them stop thinking so much about themselves. Instead, they may begin to understand that they need to support their child.

When one parent speaks ill of the other parent

Some parents are angry and accusing each other during the divorce. Some not only quarrel but also speak ill of each other. Maybe they are talking to relatives or friends and saying bad things. Some even speak ill about the other parent with their children. Such nonsense harms children. Almost all children love both their parents and even if you are angry with your parent, it harms you if your other parent is adding to your anger. 

In such situations, you need to be brave and tell the parent who speaks ill to stop. Maybe you just say that ”I actually do not want to hear things like this”. Parents may need to be reminded that they both are your parents and that you want them to be good parents together. It can also be relatives or family friends who say bad things. Then you can ask your parent to tell them to stop. You can also say that you do not feel like hanging out with them as long as they are saying bad things about your other parent. They need to understand that they are making your life as a child harder when they speak ill of your parent. 

Parents who have no energy

For some parents, divorce takes up all their energy. They can be so sad and exhausted that they can barely function in their new home. Some people react this way to big changes and strong emotions. As a child, it is easy to get scared and think that your parent has lost his or her energy forever. But for most adults, this is just a faze because it takes some time for them to land in their new lives. Still, it can be scary. You may feel that you yourself need to be a little extra happy and helpful to cheer them up. When you yourself are a little worried, it can be extra difficult.

The best thing when parents become this low on energy is to get help from another adult. Everything will be easier if someone can come home and help get things in order, start a conversation at the dinner table or help out with the things the parent cannot manage at the moment. Sometimes it is difficult to ask someone for such help because it may feel as if you are gossiping about your parent. It is common to feel that way, but it is still good for you to find someone you can talk to. This usually makes your parent feel better too. 

When parents quarrel

It is common for parents to quarrel, before, during and after the divorce. It often becomes calmer when they have moved apart and they have gotten into their new habits. But some parents continue to quarrel. Such quarrels always harm children. All people are stressed by quarrels, but children are extra vulnerable when their parents quarrel. If parents do not feel or think the same way about things, they must learn to accept it.

Of course, it is good if you dare to tell your parents to stop arguing. But it can also work to talk to another adult who can tell them. It is not gossip. On the contrary, it is your right.

The most important thing in a family is that the children are well, and parents have an obligation to arrange a good life for their children.

Malin Bergström, Clinical Child Psychologist & Associate Professor Karolinska Institute

Malin Bergström