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Seeing Things: Teens Dealing with Divorce

Have you ever noticed when you go into a classroom without assigned seating that everyone sits in pretty much the same place every time anyway?  Do you do that?  Do you have your favorite seat in math class, because it’s by your friend, and your favorite seat in Spanish class, because you can look out the window?  I know lots of teens and adults who are this way. 

Humans are creatures of habit.  

If the teacher walks into the classroom and announces a new seating chart or that everyone has to move to the other side of the room, if you’re like most of us, you will moan and groan.  Why?  You can’t talk to your friend during class anyway.  The other side of the room isn’t vastly different.  Why do you feel like it’s a big deal?  

Humans like things to stay the same, because we can predict what’s going to happen and how it’s going to feel.  That reduces our stress levels.  We don’t have to think about every little nuance in every situation.  We can use our brain power on more important things.  

So when big changes happen, like parents getting divorced, or moving to a new place, or mom getting a job when she didn’t work your whole childhood, it will raise your stress levels.  Now you DO have to think about lots of little things that are different and unpredictable. 

Changes

  • Maybe mom used to drive you to school, but now you take the bus. It’s loud and some kids are annoying.  
  • Maybe dad used to make breakfast on the weekend.  You wake up on Saturday expecting to smell pancakes, but instead find cold cereal. 
  • Maybe life is more peaceful now and it feels good, but you’re still expecting one parent to do that one thing they always do…. but they aren’t there, or they are too sad or busy. 

What if I told you that you can now see things you wouldn’t have seen before?  

Humans are creatures of habit, yes, but also humans are adaptable

That means that we don’t die or curl up and sleep forever when changes happen.  We can find new routines and new special little things that we enjoy. 

Will you try something? 

Make a list of everything that has changed since The Big Change in your life, whether that’s your parents’ divorce, a death in the family, a move or any other circumstance. 

Write down the little changes, like who helps with your homework or makes dinner or how you spend your afternoons.  Maybe even smaller changes like not seeing your dad’s jacket on the hook next to yours anymore.   

Did you make a list?  Good!

Now take a few moments to think about each thing, and see something new about the situation.  

  • Maybe now that you’re taking the bus, you have more time to make friends.  
  • Maybe you like to cook, and you get to be the weekend pancake maker now. 
  • Maybe there’s something you get to do at one parent’s house that you’d never be allowed at the other parent’s house. 
  • Maybe one routine you really didn’t like before is gone now. 
  • Maybe one parent is frustrated that the other isn’t around to help with something, but you learned how to do something new together. 

You don’t have to feel any certain way about any of this.  You might feel sad or angry or relieved or happy or worried or content or any mix of a lot of emotions.  That’s ok!  Notice what you are seeing and feeling, and sit with those thoughts for a while.

Humans are creatures of habit, but we’re also adaptable.  Adapting starts with seeing new things.  

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