10 Things Kids of Divorce Wish They Could Say to Their Parents

effects of divorce on children

When people ask, “Where did you grow up?” I often reply with a smile, “On the I-25 freeway!” I lived in one city with my mom and visited my dad every other weekend in another. My parents divorced when I was a baby and never lived in the same city after that.

I look back and remember good times with both of my parents present at piano recitals and graduation; however, I also look back and remember how hard it was for me when they argued “through me” about child support, paying for camp, and where I would spend Christmas. I also remember one of my parents being very emotional when I would leave to go to the other home and one of my parents constantly bad-mouthing the other.

Over the years, we have worked with teens and adult children of divorce who were raised in two homes. Many times, they literally wanted to shout, “STOP PUTTING ME IN THE MIDDLE!!!” Unfortunately, most kids never have the courage to speak up and share their voice on these matters. On behalf of hundreds of adult children of divorce, we offer this important insight into the heart and mind of a child of divorce:

  1. Don’t say mean things about my other parent – I want and need to love you both!
  2. When you criticize my other parent it makes me angry at YOU!
  3. Don’t make me pick who I want to spend time with – it’s not fair. Don’t keep track of my time like I’m on the clock. It can’t always be 100 percent fair.
  4. Handle your financial conversations in private. I don’t want to hear about it and I don’t want to be your messenger.
  5. Don’t use money to win my love. Be a stable and loving parent and I will love you no matter who has the “most” money.
  6. Don’t keep me from seeing the other parent. If you do, I’ll grow up and resent you.
  7. Get a counselor to help you with your problems. I need you to be strong and stable for my well-being. I don’t want to hear about your dating and your problems at work or how much we are struggling financially. Talk to someone else. I need you to be my parent and mentor and lead me in the way you want me to grow up. Don’t make me be YOUR parent.
  8. The harder you make it on my other parent, the harder you are making it on me.
  9. Laugh and smile. I want to enjoy my life, and your mood impacts my mood. Find a way to be happy and enjoy your life. I need to have fun and make enjoyable memories with you.
  10. Don’t forget that I have a divided heart now and I live between two completely different houses, rules, traditions, and attitudes. Be patient with me when I forget things or need some time to adjust from house to house. Please buy me enough stuff that I don’t have to live out of a suitcase my whole life. If you want me to feel “at home” in both places, please set up a full home for me, even if I am only there a few days a month. Things like toothbrushes, shoes, clothes, my favorite cereal, and having cool décor in my room. These all help me feel welcome and at home in both homes. Don’t compete or argue about these things. Just help me not have to feel like a visitor when I am with either parent. Make it as easy on ME as possible!

Parents: Thank you for taking the time to hear these words from many children of divorce. These are the things kids wish they could say, but they can’t find the words or the courage to communicate to you. Do all you can to raise them in a way that celebrates the love of BOTH parents and allows them to have a whole and healthy childhood, despite your divorce! Divorce ends the marriage, not the love between parent and child. {Tweet This} They will THRIVE when you allow them to live freely between both mom and dad. What areas of coparenting are you ready to focus on?


  • Sil

    Does it hold true for a divorce due to domestic violence?

    • Kris Washington

      I was a child of divorce due to domestic violence – I’m sure I don’t speak for all, but in my case, yes. My dad got a lot better over the years, though.

  • Pat

    It’s ridiculous to think that the parent paying child support can afford to buy their child everything to make them feel like they’re not a visitor!

    • Divorced mom

      I don’t think that is ridiculous at all… There a second-hand stores you can use. And if you are truly co-parenting and putting the needs of the child/ren first, you can do this as a family so your child has a room at both homes.

  • Rachel

    This is ideal, however not applicable to all situations. I am keeping my child away from his father because he is a drug addict and has been in jail 19 times in the course of my sons 3 years of life, and left my son for over a year to do drugs. He has designated hours he can visit with supervison but has chosen not to. I don’t bad mouth his dad but we also don’t speak about him at all he has never been in his life so my son doesn’t know the difference at this point. Having both parents in the child’s life is NOT always the best thing for them.

  • Diane Shomaker Talbot

    there comes a time that a parent can be toxic to the rest of the family such as the drug addict or in my cases post traumatic stress destroyed my husband. There were no arguments over children staying with him. He never called and wanted them for holidays. I remarried and my step son had a bed with my sons for when he came over. His sister decided she didn’t want to be involved. My boys eventually went to live with their dad in high school which wasn’t a good situation and my step son moved in with us. I had my own problems from my parents divorce and tried to not put that on my kids.

  • Don Gerry

    Don’t expect us to even come close to liking your new husband the way we love our Dad. You can’t replace him and never will. Stop sticking up for your husband because you think he is always right. He doesn’t always tell the truth. He is only kind when you around. Be aware when he treats us badly and is jealous of us for spending time with you. We should be as your children, the most important things in your life and never should have the feeling that we are second to anyone. Ever!

  • Kara Laine Gilbert

    For #6 & #8 – Sometimes, parents keep kids away from the other parent for protection and not out of spite. The article should specify that aspect since protection isn’t always handled adequetely in a court of law. Sometimes you can’t prove that there is drug or other illegal activiy occuring in the other home and keeping your child away is simply the responsible thing to do. “Don’t prevent visits out of jealousy, spite or hate” would be a better way to put it.

    For #10 – I absolutely agree. As a child of divorce and later a step-mom, this is major. My dad had plenty of money yet it never occured to him to give me my own decorated space/room/supplies. If my mom was too busy or unavailable and didn’t pack a proper bag, I would spend the weekend in ill fitting clothes while shopping for a toothbrush and a new outfit when I’d rather be doing other things with my dad. Later on, as a step-parent, I remembered how it felt to look like the poor little pauper with parents who didn’t care (which was the furthest thing from the truth) to the neighbors. I made sure my step-daughter had a fully furnished room and enough clothes and toiletries to never have the need to pack a bag. It made her time with us comfortable and she looked forward to her “other” room. We did not have a lot of money in the beginning of our marriage yet made her feel as if she belonged by providing simple and adequate personal effects.

  • Samuel Enka

    I got news for you chump. You didn’t have two parents. You had one parent, and a part-time visitor that paid extortion money like an indentured servant to maintain an ersatz semblance of a relationship. You’ve just been programmed to believe you had two parents. Your relationship with dad was about alienation and you don’t even recognize it.
    Until there is a law allowing fathers the constitutional right to equality in parenting, this kind of fighting with children in the middle will never cease. Because men now only have two choices:
    Lay down like a slave and have your children taken from you,
    Or fight the system of family law cruelty and controlling bitter women who love making fathers suffer.

    • Steve Nickell

      I’m a single dad who’s wife left me and abandoned her children. It was almost a month after she left that she even texted her daughters.
      I have full and sole custody. I have an open door policy for the girls to see their mom…but they refuse. They don’t want to see her or her new husband, especially after my eldest found the pornographic texts and pictures they were sending each other.
      It’s a good list…but every situation is unique. Bottom line: the kids, the lives YOU brought into the world, are first place, not an afterthought.