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OneBoot

Need some advice on how to comfort a young friend

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I've recently been in a position to give some advice and comfort to a 12-year old whose parents are considering divorce, and I'm struggling to know what to say to her, or whether I even said the right things.

 

Background: I don't actually know her much at all, and we've never met in person. In a game that I play (Animal Crossing: New Leaf), there is an area where players can meet people from all over the world and play mini games together, and add them to their friends list if they want to. I did this once about a month ago, and this girl, I'll call her R, friended me, and it seemed like she needed a friend so I friended her back.

 

Today, she told me that yesterday her little brother told her that her big brother was crying, and when she went to see what was going on, she overheard her mother telling her big brother that things might be changing, that her dad would be getting the house, one of the cars, etc.; basically, that a divorce may be imminent.

 

Neither parent has said anything to the family in general, and she's (understandably) scared to ask her mother for clarification. Never having been in that situation myself, I did my best to advise and comfort her; I asked if she was close to her mother (sort of), and whether there was a time/place she could talk to her mother alone (certain days, in the car). She was scared and nervous about how to approach her mother in conversation about this, so I suggested writing a note and giving it to her mother before they got in the car so they could have that time to talk about it.

 

I just...I'm not sure what to say to her. The closest that I've had this happen to me was my dad was going through some intense personal struggles (which did affect our whole family) that necessitated him taking a few days away from the rest of the family to work through. Before I knew about this, my dad had once, when he was upset with me, said that he and mom were considering divorcing, which I of course took to mean that if they did that it would be my fault, etc. etc. I did tell this to R, and she seemed to appreciate hearing my experience, and I made sure to emphasize that it was NOT because of anything I was/was not doing that they had been considering it.

 

So, I guess my question is: to those of you who have been in this situation, or who have had friends or family going through this, what do you wish someone had said to you? What sorts of things made the pain at least a little bit less? I know I won't be able to solve or take away what's happening in her life, I'm just trying to figure out what I, as a random person on the internet, can say to her that might help, even a little.

 

I appreciate your reading this, and I'm sorry if it brings back painful memories. I just want to know what I can do to help.

 

Thanks,

--OneBoot

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My parents split when before I was 3 and all I remember was a lot of scary yelling and broken stuff.  My son on the other hand...  I will be blunt here since I wouldn't dare in person:  "Don't try to get them back together."  My son did that for years and it never ended well for he or I.

 

Sorry I wasn't more help or comforting but this is a messy business you've taken on.

 

EDIT:  Sympathy like.  And on a lighter note there are at least four people in my house who are forwarding this girl a virtual hug and cupcakes.

Edited by Girot
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Tell her it's not about her. It's not her fault, she didn't cause it and she can't fix it. It's between Mommy and Daddy. M&D love her, but aren't going to live together any more. She will have 2 parents, but not in the same house.

 

It will be ok. It happens to lots of families. Sometimes it's scary and confusing but it generally works out ok. If there's any yelling and screaming at home that will stop once M&D separate.

 

Let her know that she can always come to you, or her teacher, or someone at her church if she is scared or has questions, and that it's not silly or stupid to do this.

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"It's not your fault. They both still love you very much. They will both try to continue being the best mom and dad to you in the world, even if they aren't together anymore. This is not the end of "family".

 

My mother divorced my sister a dad when she was eight and she's never recovered really. I think at that time, had she heard this, it might have been different. My mother divorced my dad before I turned one and he had other kids already so I had no attachement to him as a father or related person. BUT MY "FATHER", is and always will be my sisters dad. Even though he and my mother were divorced he spent every Christmas, birthday, graduation, spring break, summer trip, for the hell of it trips with us every year.

 

It's not the end for your friend.

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I also want to add that she shouldn't feel ashamed that her parents are splitting up. Times are different now, and divorce and separated families are more accepted. When I was a kid it was a shameful thing, somehow wrong, a sign that your family was inferior or a failure. This isn't true now, and she shouldn't carry that guilt, or her new family status like it is some big secret.

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So I was a little older than she sounds when my parents divorced. Fifteen actually. Wonderful age to have that happen. My parents divorce was quick and painless, at least compared to others. But it didn't make the pain any less, and really devastated me. The broken part will always be there.

 

Sadly, there is little advice to give other than things DO GET BETTER. There really isn't anything to be done other than to deal with the change, find joy when one can, and focus on the future. Upcoming fun classes, college to come, friends to make and life to live. Only way to get out of the middle of a hellish situation is to keep walking.

 

Sounds so much like a motivational poster or Pixar/Disney film, but it's the truth.

 

Almost hit post! Best piece of advice I just thought of: Don't forget you aren't alone. Two siblings will be just as hurting, and untold numbers of classmates and friends.

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Another thing you can tell her is that it doesn't matter how old a person is when their parents split up, it still hurts a lot. My best friend's parents divorced when he was 40, and he still needed someone to talk to about it, and work it through in order to come to terms. Granted, as a married adult himself, he didn't have to cope with many of the unknowns that kids face nor was he tempted to try and fix things, but the pain was still real.

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Others have already stated what I was going to say, but the one thing I can add is make sure to let her know that you'll be around whenever she needs/wants to talk. Encourage her to find others that she can talk to as well. Especially if said person can actually physically be there.

 

My parents divorced when I was young (5 or 6, I don't remember). Thankfully, it was an easy one, at least as far as I was concerned. There was very little yelling, and neither parent bad-mouthed the other one to me. They both also took pains to make sure that I knew it wasn't my fault, and that they both still loved me.

 

Best wishes going out to your little friend, OneBoot.

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Most important thing is, that the love both parents feel for their children doesn't change.

They just don't love each other anymore, which can be confusing.

 

I'm divorced, my girlfirend is divorced. We got togheter.

My kids are older and are parents themselves now.

Her daughters are 15 and 18 and still live at home, they feel like my own now.

 

It can be a hard time for children ( regardless of age).

She really needs to understand that it is NEVER her fault.

 

Good luck

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Thank you, everyone, for your advice, and for sharing your stories; I deeply appreciate it.

 

Since I posted this, I have yet to be online at the same time she is, so I'm not sure how things are going for her currently. But, when I "see" her next, I will definitely emphasize that it is not her fault, and that she is not alone.

 

--OneBoot

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One other experience that is valid for any friend but really important for children.  Listen.  Actually hear what they say and respond to it.  She's going to be in a position where very few other people are going to.

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One other experience that is valid for any friend but really important for children.  Listen.  Actually hear what they say and respond to it.  She's going to be in a position where very few other people are going to.

This. A thousand times over, THIS. I know you Boot, well enough to know you are the kind who will, you've a good heart, made obvious by your coming here to look for guidance and advice to be all the more helpful for this girl, but still it is the most important thing in the world to listen. And if they ask you something if you do not have an answer, be honest about that too. "I don't know" is more valuable then one might think, it shows you are listening, and reminds them that they aren't the only one who doesn't have the answers

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Necro-post...

 

I was able to talk to R only for a little bit a couple of months ago, and haven't been able to since due to schedules not matching up, and also the last time I tried to get ahold of her she just had a status update that she'd lost the game we were able to communicate through. The Nintendo 3DS is extremely limiting about ways that players can communicate with each other.  -_-

 

However, the main reason I'm posting is because I wanted to thank you all again for your words of strength and comfort. I remembered this thread and re-read everyone's advice after finding out that...well...there's a possibility my parents may be separating. I know that it's not my fault or the fault of any of my siblings, I know that they both still love all of us, and that it was the result of some poor choices my father made. My father is finally getting the help he needs, though, which is good, but trust has been broken yet again, which will take a very, very long time to heal.

 

It's not for certain yet, but I know that if this is what will be best, then I will do my best to be supportive.

 

It still hurts, though. It hurts so much.

 

--OneBoot

Edited by OneBoot
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Relationship troubles are very common and sadly also somewhat taboo. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that almost all long term relationships will hit some sort of trouble along the way. People just generally do not talk enough about it, so when it does happens to you or your parents, you feel pretty alone with the problem. Looking around at the people I know, quite a lot are divorced, some have been very close to divorce and a few probably should get a divorce because frankly the relationship is unhealthy to everyone involved. But we don't really talk much about it. And it IS sometimes possible to work through it and have a healthy happy relationship afterwards.

 

I wonder if there are statistics about how many people in long term relationships have been or are actively considering ending the relationship.

 

And yes, broken trust takes a long time to rebuild and sometimes can only happen with drastic changes in habits.

Edited by vejlin

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