Divorce and Stepfamilies: Breaking Apart, Coming Together

All families are works in progress...

Description | More From the Teens
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More From the Teens

Christina, Amanda, and Chris participate in a divorce support group at Hunterdon Central High School in New Jersey.

It took me a while to get help dealing with the divorce. It all started like when my mom found out that my grades were dropping and stuff like that, and that I really didn't care about anything. Like even sports, which I care about to death! So my mom realized that things were heading downhill, she came up to me and asked, "What do you think about the divorce? What's going through your mind?" And then she asked, "How about going to see a therapist?" She just wanted me to have someone to talk to when I needed it. Then I had a meeting during school with a bunch of my teachers and my counselors, and my guidance counselor actually had recommended that I go to the support group at the school.

Amanda The hardest thing for me was the embarrassment factor. Well, maybe embarrassment isn't the exact word, but my family used to always eat dinner together, and I felt like we were close. I always felt really lucky that we were like that because I knew a lot of my friends' families never sat down together, and it was always really important to me. So when my parents got divorced, it was weird. I thought people would perceive us just another completely dysfunctional family and that made me feel uncomfortable. The other difficult thing has been my dad. I always felt that I had a really great relationship with my dad. I love my dad, he's absolutely wonderful, and I just wish I got to see him more often. Being away from him has actually been really hard, and every time I go visit him it gets harder to leave, every time. Because it's not just having fun there, it's, you know, being with my dad and remembering what it's like to have him there every day. I miss that very much.

Chris I think it would have been better if my parents just cut it off immediately, because they just went back and forth. It was like, are they together or not? Because with my parents they didn't act like they were divorced, they just had two separate houses. We still hung out together and did things as a family and then all of a sudden, there was no more. That was my dad's part. He said to my mom, "No I don't want to see you anymore, I'm seeing other people" and stuff like that. I didn't really like the transition I would have rather had it one way or the other, not halfway, because it's just confusing. Dating is hard to get used to because all the way up until fifth grade, my parents were together. In my brain there's no other way, its like my parents are together, they're not gonna see anyone else. And then suddenly they're divorced and they're seeing other people and it just doesn't fit in. My parents are supposed to be my only parents and there aren't supposed to be other parents! But I guess I sort of got used to it because they've been divorced for five years, so you get used to them being separate after a year.

Abbie and Katie are members of a local Banana Splits support group for kids and teens with divorced parents.

I didn't tell my friends at first, because I was scared. I was afraid they'd say something like, "Your parents are divorced? That's so weird." But then when I come here to the support group, you know everyone else is like that, so I can talk with Kevin (the leader) or anyone else.

KatieMy mom used to say, "Oh, what did you do with your dad this weekend?" when I'd to go see him. And I'd be like, "We went to the movies," and she'd be like, "He takes you to the movies? Well, next week we're going to the movies," like you know to get back. Then I would tell my dad, and he would be like, "But that's our thing we do together," and I would be like, "Well I can't tell her NO." So it really it puts you in a sticky situation. When my mom started dating, I had to help my little sister. She would be there for me and I would be there for her, so when she was upset about something, I would say, "It's okay, talk to me," and stuff like that. Mom would go out late and we would wake up in the middle of the night and she wouldn't be home. My sister would be like, "I want mommy" and start crying and stuff. In a way she looks up to me. I was the big sister and had to do everything.

Andy and Nick had to adjust when their father remarried and their new stepmom's two teenage children came to live with them.

I thought my dad would never get remarried. My mom got remarried and I never really liked her new husband. I didn't really like it because it's not your biological parents together, it's not the way God intended it. I've seen families with parents that stay together, they seem so much happier. But by the grace of God my dad made this family really tight after a long time, after a lot of hardships. I didn't look at stepfamilies in a positive way until I was in it for a long time. I didn't think that this family would work. It's by the grace of God that we're here today together, that I'm here right now and I think that trusting in Him just made us all come together as one. Because we all had that one belief that's so strong.

Nick with stepbrother AlexAt first I wanted my own room and I was mad because I was like, "Andy should have to share a room with our new stepbrother." But I didn't win that one because he's older. But now, I like sharing the room. It's really fun, so I don't mind it. We also used to have a babysitter, and the babysitter didn't care what we did, so we'd do whatever we want. Once our stepmother Donna was home watching us, we had rules to follow. Which was a good thing. Just at the time we didn't think it was.