Sunday, June 22, 2008

We have created this site in the hopes of aiding those of you whose childhood and/or adolescence was impacted by the divorce of your parents. All of our blog team has been touched personally touched by divorce. The long-term impacts of parents divorcing is a topic particularly close to the hearts of several of us writing this blog who have also had to learn to navigate through the pain, sadness, anger, conflicted feelings, conflicted loyalties, and all the many other feelings experienced by Adults who have grown up in divorced families.

We particularly focus on the emotion of shame.
Shame is not a popular word or emotion
. We don’t like to admit to ourselves that we feel Shame or are ashamed of ourselves. Our Society SHUNS Shame and does not encourage us to talk it. We are a self-sufficient society and honor only self-assertion, self-esteem, and success.

But, Shame is exactly so devastating because it embodies those feelings about ourselves that we feel most sensitive and most hopeless to change. Shame says “you are worthless, you are bad for …., you’re too …..” These feelings of shame drive us to hide them and ourselves from others, sometimes causing us to isolate large parts of our lives. Many of us dealing with divorce issues can identify with the nagging sense that somehow we are damaged people – and that is shame talking. Sometimes we deny even our sense of shame, or can’t name it, because it is too painful to admit even to ourselves.

Our blog is informed by a new approach to resolving Shame presented by our professor/mentor Brene Brown, Ph.D. in her book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it wasn’t)(“ITIWJM”). Her work provides the hope of freeing ourselves from shame through building Shame Resilience. Build Shame Resilience involves four important skills: Identifying our own Shame and Shame Triggers, Practicing Critical Awareness, Speaking Shame, and Reaching Out to others.

To learn more about Shame Resilience
– How shame is different from embarrassment, guilt, or humiliation - and the four skills in building Shame Resilience – go to Glossary on our sidebar and click on Shame Resilience Terms.
– For more on Dr. Brown’s book and work go to Favorite Web Links and click on her website.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


As a child, your world may have broken apart but as an adult you have the opportunity to put some of it back together.
  • Choose to move forward- you cannot change the past.
  • Establish a new relationship with your parents based on understanding and forgiveness
  • Ask questions and clear up misunderstandings
  • Realize your parents were doing the best they could at the time.
  • Connect with each parent as an individual.
  • If you are the middle of their gunk -GET OUT.
  • If one parent wants you to choose sides -resist.
  • Set boundaries with the idea they are BOTH a part of who you are.
  • Be prepared to "divorce" a parent if they continue to be abusive or harmful.
  • Have your say in family get-togethers.
  • Your wedding- define your expectations- if they can't be met - consider eloping or 2 ceremonies.
  • Holidays-be realistic with your time and enjoyment-don't try to be everywhere at once-be open to alternating holidays with parents or celebrating on another day.
  • Identify the unhealthy patterns in your parent's relationship-strive not to repeat them.
  • Embrace the strength you have developed in response to your family's divorce.
  • Recognize the dimensions and lessons that may have been added with step families.
  • Create your own security.
  • Create networks of friends and co workers.
  • Seek out communities based on your beliefs, hobbies or interests.
  • Look for support groups that may address issues that are difficult for you.
  • Practice Self Care

compiled from THE LOVE THEY LOST by Stephanie Staal (Dell Publishing,2001)

Sunday, June 15, 2008


So I have never really known there was an acronym for adult children of divorce. Sure it gets annoying typing that long description, but I have never used the acronym. So I looked it up and this is what I found. . .

Acronym Definition

ACOD Actual Cost Of Damages
ACOD Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (NY law; criminal matter is dismissed after specific time)

ACOD Adult Children Of Divorce
ACOD Algemene Centrale der Openbare Diensten (Brussels, Belgium)

Do these maybe look the same to you? They sure did to me. Actual Cost of Damages....Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal....Adult Children of Divorce...ironic isn't it?

I do not however know what the last one means...I hope it doesn't mess up my little theory.... :)

The Lighter Side of Adult Children of Divorce

The ACOD's (Adult Children of Divorce) Guide to Surviving Thanksgiving
How to Hold it Together when Everyone's Pulling You Apart

Thanksgiving. It's a beautiful holiday-candles on the table, the turkey, golden brown and fragrant, all the special dishes you remember, the family together being a family and being grateful. But if your clan is more like the Osbornes than the Osmonds, or if Mom and Dad have split and Mom married a guy with ten kids and Dad moved to Wisconsin with his new wife who keeps insisting that everyone fly out to be with them on Thanksgiving, or if your significant other is also an ACOD and the two of you are at odds about which side of the family gets the honor of your presence, then deciding what to do can make you, well, a little queasy.

Hopefully the following suggestions can help you weather the domestic storms that holidays can spark for ACODs and let you emerge with the minimum of hurt feelings while actually enjoying yourself.

Some Common Misconceptions

Adult Children of Divorce: Misconceptions/Stereotypes/Assumptions

Statistics and trends focused on the negative long-lasting effects divorce has on children has brought upon misconceptions about being an adult child of divorce. These misconceptions or stereotypes have made adult children of divorce become synonymous with failure, disappointment and misfortune.

The label of “adult child of divorce” will continue to be stigmatizing and shaming if we continue to believe these stereotypes hold any truth.
So let us set the record straight.

Don’t assume that my parent’s divorce will influence EVERY aspect of my personal life.

My parent’s divorce will not determine if I will initiate or terminate a romantic relationship or if I will marry or divorce.

If I am single, it is not necessarily because I am afraid of marriage or my wariness to trust others.

If I am married, don’t assume that I will sabotage my marriage to live up to what is expected - for my marriage to end in divorce. I can have a healthy marriage in spite of my parent’s divorce.

Don’t assume that my parent’s divorce is the WORST thing that could have happened to my family.

Don’t always expect people to always be upset or sad when they talk about their parent’s divorce, after all not all divorces are bad ideas.

Recognize that IT IS POSSIBLE to continue to have a close relationship with BOTH my parent’s regardless of their divorce. Not all divorces have to end with the children picking sides.

But if I ever do decide to not continue my relationship with either of my parents, in regards to the divorce, it was a choice I made and should be respected NOT judged for it.

Keeping Informed

The growing divorce phenomenon: Societal changes that increased divorce

Many societal changes came into play in the 1960s and 70s which made divorce a more viable option for many couples.
  • Increased access to work for women provided an economic base for them to choose to leave a marriage. In 1960, only 38% of women worked outside the home. By the 1980s, over 50% of women were employed in jobs.

  • By the 1970s, Divorce laws in many states changed to allow for “no fault” divorce. Couples no longer needed to agree to divorce or convince a judge the other partner “was to blame.” People no longer went to states giving a quick divorce or to Mexico. Divorces were now granted to couples in which only one party desired it, basing the divorce on “irreconcilable differences.”
  • From 1940 through 1960, the divorce rates were steady at 1.5 per 1,000 for married women age 15 to 44. Divorce peaked in 1980 at 4.0 per 1000 and has declined since then along with the declining marriage rate. (The divorce rate was 3.6 per 1000 persons in 2006). (Braver & Cookston).
  • The marriage rate has decreased from 10.6 per 1000 people in 1970 to 7.3 per 1000 people in 1970. (CDC Report).
  • The divorce rate is just below 50%. (Jefferson).

You are truly not alone!

  • Today more than 25% of the U.S. population 18 to 44 has divorced parents.
    (This group is made up of adults born at the end of the Baby Boom around 1963 to those born around 1990).
  • Every year about 1 million children’s parents split up.

Expert’s reports are shifting away from the dire outcomes originally forecast for Adults who grew up with divorced parents.

Studies on the impact of divorce on children and Adult children of divorce are shifting away from the early dire prognoses to more optimistic reporting of the resiliency of children and families in divorce. Experts attribute some of these differences to varied methodology and focus – with early long-term studies focusing questions on the negative and thereby “ ‘pulling’ for pathology” while more recent long-term studies assume the resiliency and high functionality of these families and the children.

Most long-term studies confirm higher incidents of the hallmark behaviors attributed to children of divorce. However, newer studies point out that despite these trends, the vast majority of Adult children of divorce go on to lead highly functional and meaningful lives and are able to find and keep meaningful relationships.

Here are some of the findings of the long term studies of Adults who grew up with parents who divorced:

The negative trends in early reporting on the impact of divorce:
(Statistics are not destiny!! )

· Family & Marriage:

o Adult children of divorce tend to marry less than those raised by their two biological parents. (In 1996, 24% never married compared to 16% of Adult children from intact families). (Wallerstein, et al.)

o When they marry, Adult children are more likely to marry before age 25. Younger age of marriage is associated with higher divorce rates. (In one study, 50% of Adult children of divorce married before age 25 as opposed to 34% of all Adults nationally). (Wallerstein, et al.).

o Adult children of divorce are 40% more likely to marry another Adult child of divorce.

o Female children of divorce are more likely to have a child outside of marriage. (Hetherington).

o But, some experts point to the generational divorce cycle waning with divorce rates for Adult children whose divorced parents never remarried dropping 50% from 1970s to 1990s. (Lin)>

· Education & Employment:

o Only 39% of Adult children of divorce earned a college degree as opposed to 52% of Adult children from intact families. (Wallerstein, et al.).

o In school, studies reported modestly lower academic & achievement test scores for Adult children of divorce (Kelly & Emery).

· Psychological Well Being:

o Increased & earlier drug use (Heavy use during High School found to be as high as 85% of Adult children of divorce as opposed to 24% for Adult children from intact marriages).

o Earlier sexual activity (Hetherington).

o Some studies report Adult children of divorce 2x more likely to have behavioral problems, especially in lower income families (Amato).

o Only 1/3 Adult men and ¼ Adult women of divorce continue to have a close relationship with their father into adulthood. (Hetherington).

Newer studies highlight resiliency factors found in children of divorce:

While the trends and statistics above highlight many of the challenges faced by Adult children of divorce over their lifetime, some newer studies focus on the strengths and resilience of the vast majority who do successfully maneuver through the trauma of parents divorcing and emerge and re-emerge with highly functional lives.

· Several longitudinal studies show that 75 to 80% of Adult children of divorce Do Not Suffer from major psychological problems, but

o Achieve educational and career goals.

o Maintain close relationships with their families of origin

o Enjoy intimate relationships

o Do not appear to be scarred over the long-term by the impact of their parents’ divorce.
(Kelly & Emery).

· Well-being scores for 42% of young adults from divorced families were found in one study to be above the average of young adults from non-divorced families. (Kelly & Emery quote Amato).

· Educational achievement is closely tied to economic status of Adult child’s custodial family as well as relationship with custodial parent (Amato).

· There is no evidence that Adult children of divorce inherit an intergenerational dislike for marriage. The vast majority of Adult children of divorce wants to be married and is determined to avoid divorce for themselves and their children just like everyone else (Lin on Wolfinger).

Look for books by authors of these studies and others in our Bookshelf


Amato, P.R. & Sobolewski, J.M. (2001). The effects of divorce and marital discord on adult children’s psychological well being. American Sociological Review, 66(Dec.): 900 – 921.

Braver, S.L. & Cookston, J.T. (2003). Controversies, clarifications, and consequences of divorce’s legacy: Introduction to the special collection. Family Relations, 52(4), p. 314-317.

CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, (July, 2002). Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States. Retrieved from, on June 11, 2008.

Hetherington, E.M. (2003). Intimate pathways: Changing patterns in close personal relationships across time. . Family Relations, 52(4), p. 318-333.

Jefferson, D.J. (April 12, 2008). The divorce generation grows up. Newsweek. Retrieved from, on June 7, 2008.

Kelly, J.B. & Emery, R.E. (2003). Children’s adjustment following divorce: Risk and resilience perspectives. Family Relations, 52(4), p. 352-362.

Lin, I-F ((2006). Understanding the divorce cycle: The children of divorce in their own marriages. Population Studies, 60(3), p. 359-360.

Painful legacy of divorce breakup’s effects on children often reaches far into adulthood. (n.d.). Retrieved from, on June 11, 2008.

Wallerstein, J.S., Lewis, J.M., & Blakeslee, S. (2000). The unexpected legacy of divorce: a 25 year landmark study. Hyperion: New York.

Divorce Art

I remember when my parents got divorced around 14 years ago I had a lot of anger and frustration being only 11 years old. I remember wirting some poems and trying to let out my aggression through music and arts. We stumbled on a website of drawings from children whose parents are going through a divorce. I remember my pain looking a lot like these pictures. Did yours?

To see more art visit:



Find yourself, even better; find the creative side in you.

Creativity is healing.

Find a poem that inspires you:

A Prayer For Courage
By, Rabindranath Tagore

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,But to be fearless in facing them.Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,But for the heart to conquer it.Let me not look for allies in life's battlefield,But to my own strength.Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved,But hope for the patience to win my freedom.Grant me that I may not be a coward, feeling your mercy in my success alone,But let me find the grasp of your hand in my failure.

Don’t Quit
By, Unknown

When things go wrong,
As they sometimes will
When the road you’re trudging
Seems all uphill
When the funds are low
And the debts are high
And you want to smile
But you have to sigh
When care is pressing
You down a bit
Rest if you want
But don’t quit

Life is strange with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You might succeed with another blow

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And never can tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst, that you must not quit!

Do you feel inspired? Write one of your own!

Divorce is most likely to wreak havoc when spouses declare war on each other and draft their kids. - Constance Ahrons

A Little Inspiration.....

Take Time for Self Care

Self Care

Take care of your Feelings
ind a friend or a support group who has experienced divorce – talk it out.
Evaluate if a therapist would be helpful.
Engage in positive self talk- “I survived and I will thrive.” “I can’t change the past
but I am stronger for it.”
Let your repressed feelings out in journaling or writing letters to your family
(that you may or may not send)

Take care of your Body
Balance your diet with nutritious choices
Order your day to include exercise as well
as relaxation. Spend sometime outdoors.
Decide to pamper your body once a
week with a massage, manicure, long
bubble bath, foot soak, clean sheets,
scented lotion etc..
Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and other eastern
disciplines- condition the body, mind and spirit.

Take care of your S
Seek a spiritual community
Pray, meditate, worship,breathe
Investigate wisdom from past philosophers, prophets, poets etc..
Read for pleasure
Invest in a hobby or some form creative self expression
Take time to be grateful for all the blessings that are mixed in with the

A Few Tips For Future Children of Divorce

As an adult child of divorce, I read these tips for parents who are willing to raise healthy children of divorce to healthy adult children of divorce and wished this list had been given to my wonderful parents.

Please let us know what you think!

Getting Your Children through Your Divorce

There is no question that divorce is awful for kids. Many divorcing parents are surprised, though, when they realize how much control they have over the way their children live through their divorce.

Basic Pointers

There is actually a good bit you can do to make your children's lives easier while you go through divorce:

1. Be available to listen.

2. To the extent possible, tell your children why you are divorcing. If possible, no matter how painful, try to tell them when the whole family (including both spouses and all children) is together.

3. Be yourself. You cannot be both parents.

4. Reassure your children early and often that your divorce is not their fault.

5. Do not use the child as a messenger in parental communications, as in "Tell your father he's late with the child support payment."

6. Do not argue or fight with your spouse while the child is listening. Experts say the amount of conflict the child witnesses during and immediately after divorce is a crucial factor in his or her adjustment.

7. Divorce is a time of great change for both of you and for your children. Try to minimize these changes. For example, try to keep them in the same school and home if possible, as well as the same afternoon and evening activities.

8. Try to use consistent discipline. For example, try to agree with each other about what movies or TV programs are permitted, what bedtime is appropriate, what language is permitted, etc.

9. Do not use the child as a weapon. Children need quality time with both parents. It is unfair to restrict their access to one of their parents, no matter how willing the children may seem at the time.

10. Do not use the child as a spy. If they want to tell you about time spent with their other parent (and they usually do not), listen closely and politely, and then stop. If they do not volunteer any information, try simply, "Have a good time? Good."

11. Do not make your children take sides in any dispute with your spouse. Children generally want to make both their parents happy. Do not make them choose.

12. Do not criticize your spouse in front of the child. Remember that your spouse is still your child's parent; when you criticize your spouse, whether you mean to or not, you are also criticizing your child indirectly.

13. Let your child be a child. It is easy, but wrong, to make your adolescent child, or even your adult child, a confidant in dealing with your recovery, you are dating life, or your fears. Even if children seem capable of handling these concerns without ill effects, they rarely are.

14. Do not be afraid to get outside help. Sometimes children of divorcing parents are angry or scared, and they do not know how to deal with their feelings. Therefore, they "act out," meaning they misbehave. When your children "act out," a professional counselor or therapist may be helpful to coach them through more constructive ways of expressing their feelings.

15. Keep your promises. Another way to put this is, do not make promises you do not know you can keep. Consistently keeping your promises lets your child know that he or she can trust you, which will help him or her adjust to your divorce more easily. Divorcing parents often make unrealistic promises out of guilt. If you have made a promise and realize later you cannot keep it, acknowledge it to your child. You may think he or she has forgotten about the promise, but this rarely happens.

16. Do not give up. Even if you are separated by distance, there are all kinds of things you can do to be a good parent.

17. Take care of yourself. One of the easiest mistakes to make in divorce is to get so busy dealing with everyone else's pain that you forget to get help for yourself. Enter counseling, meet with your minister or rabbi, and talk to your plants, anything you can think of to keep your own sanity. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to your kids.

18. Maintain relationships and routines. One of the many reasons divorce is so painful for children is that their relationship with each parent is constantly being tested and redefined. One of the gifts you can give your children is to allow as many parts of their life as possible to remain unchanged. Like relationships with grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends. Like bedtimes, bunny rabbits, and bananas.


The Problem

Children whose parents are divorcing have a great deal to be angry about. Just about every child going through divorce is an angry child. There may be exceptions, but not many.

Do not take comfort that your child seems to be adjusting to your divorce without anger. Many children who portray a calm, even cheerful demeanor through divorce are seething inside, and they may later express their anger in destructive ways, like depression (the mental health professionals call this "anger turned inward"), substance abuse, and/or delinquency. In addition, repressed anger often shows up disguised as sickness, for example, headaches, sleeplessness, nausea, and diarrhea.

What to Do

Figure out ways that both you and your children can better understand anger. The first principle both of you needs to understand is that anger, as a feeling is normal, appropriate, and healthy. Neither you nor your child should attempt to suppress angry feelings. What both of you must do is to develop healthy ways of dealing with anger as behavior so that it does not harm persons or property.

All of us can benefit from talking about our feelings more, particularly angry children. The problem with this for you is that it takes tough skin.

  1. Can you listen to your own child say "I'm angry with you" or "I hate you" without feeling a need to defend yourself?
  2. Can you listen to your own child say "I hate Daddy (Mommy) without jumping in to agree or disagree?
  3. Can you hear your child talk about how miserable he or she is without jumping in to fix it?

If so, good. If not, get your child with someone who can.

The need to deal with anger constructively is particularly critical with absent fathers. This means that mothers must allow (sometimes force) access with fathers and fathers must allow children to express their anger directly. If you are an absent father, try to model for your child the constructive expression of anger by talking about your own anger (but not your anger toward your child's mother) openly and honestly.


The Problem

We all worry. Worry is normal and sometimes healthy. When fears continue over several days or weeks, however, or when they interfere with our ability to carry out normal routines, we may need help to deal with them. Children of divorcing parents often struggle with anxiety.

Anxiety comes about through feelings of abandonment, changes in living conditions, embarrassment, guilt, concern about additional separations, and a haunting fear of additional unknown trouble that must be lurking somewhere in the future.

Some of the physical symptoms of continuing anxieties are nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and dizziness, as well as (particularly in younger children) thumb sucking and bed-wetting. Children suffering from anxiety often become demanding or clingy, and they may pull back from pre-existing friendships with their peers.

What to Do

First, deal with your own perfectly normal feelings of anxiety with someone other than your child. Your child has enough problems to deal with without having to serve as your counselor or confidant. Do not be afraid to ask your child to tell you about his or her fears, and be willing to listen to them - all of them.

Be willing to hear and respond to the same fear repeatedly. Just because you have explained before why you and the child are not going to have to leave this school district does not mean the fear is not still there. Your child may need to express it again and hear your explanation again.

As you listen to your child, be realistic in responding to the fears he or she expresses. If the fear is that Mommy never will come back, and you honestly do not know whether Mommy will ever come back, you need to say so. Similarly, of course, whenever you can offer reassurance that a fear will not come true, do so, patiently, logically, and thoroughly.

Do whatever you can, within the constraints of the divorce itself, to give your child a stable environment. Your child is under siege from all the changes in his or her life. Anything you can do to minimize those changes, especially in the critical first few months after your separation, will ease your child's anxiety.


Newsweek ran a story by David J. Jefferson in the April 21, 2008 Issue about a group of students from Grant High Class of '82 who told their stories of being an adult child of divorce:


The Divorce Generation Grows Up
Grant High School's class of '82 were raised on 'The Brady Bunch'—while their own families were falling apart. These are their stories—in their words.

For more please visit this link:

Some Interviews from Adult Children of Divorce

We thought it would be important to include in our blog, a few interviews with adults who were 18 years old or younger and living with their parents at the time of their divorce. We asked the same six questions to all participants. Here are a few of the interviews...

Hortencia, 48
Married for 30 years

1. How old were you when your parents divorced?

I was 2 ½ years old.

2. What is your strongest memory of your parents’ divorce?

It became a usual routine to wake up and not see my mother there because she would be working since my father was no longer there to provide for us.

We didn’t grow up as a family we were eventually all separated because my mom would work and father wasn’t there and my siblings and I were sent off to live with aunts. I didn’t really get to know my mother until I was an adolescent when I moved back to live with her.

3. What coping mechanism did you adopt?

I had support from my family---cousins and aunts. Some of them were going through the same situation, so we helped each other out and we never made each other feel any less because of it. I looked to them for support.

4. Do you feel differently about your parents’ divorce now that you are an adult?

Yes. I used to think that my parent’s divorce wasn’t a bad thing and that we were all better off this way. But now that years have passed, I see how it has really affected my mother the most. She never remarried and as she grows older I see how lonely she is and how I would have liked for her to have someone to spend her days with.
I feel guilty that I can’t do more for her.

5. As an adult if you could go back to yourself as a child and tell that child something, what would it be?

It might sound silly but I would tell her that everything will be fine. I would also tell her that dreams do come true. I wanted a family and I now I have what I always wanted.

6. Give me 6 words to describe you as an adult child of a divorce.



Sara, 38 years old

1. How old were you when your parents divorced?

13 years old

2. What is your strongest memory of your parents’ divorce?

That they finally did it. They did something to stop the fighting.

3. What coping mechanism did you adopt?

4. Do you fell differently about your parents’ divorce now that you are an adult?

Feel the same, happy

5. As an adult if you could go back to yourself as a child and tell that child something, what would it be?

This is going to get better. It will be over soon.

6. Give me six words to describe you as an adult child of divorce.



Melissa, 25 years old

1. How old were you when your parents divorced?

11 years old

2. What is your strongest memory of your parents’ divorce?

When my dad told us he was seeing another woman, I fell to the ground sobbing and crying. My brother picked me up and carried me to my room.

3. What coping mechanism did you adopt?

I had 2. One was eating. That is when I started to gain weight. The other was saying “I don’t care”. There was a period between 11-17 that I always answered- I don’t care. It was me not being trusting. I broke up with my fiancĂ©e in High School because it was too deep.

4. Do you feel differently about your parents’ divorce now that you are an adult?

Yes, my mother is happier than she ever has been. That means the world to me.

5. As an adult if you could go back to yourself as a child and tell that child something, what would it be?

I don’t think anything would have helped me feel better about my dad leaving us. It was hypocritical because he told us not to lie but his whole life was a lie.

6. Give me 6 words to describe you as an adult child of a divorce.