It’s a known fact that roughly half of marriages end in divorce. My mom and dad fall under this statistic, and when I was in third grade they officially split. Now, since everyone reading this either has divorced parents or know somebody who’s parents are divorced, you can understand how confusing this was and how hard it was to adjust to as a kid. Even if your parents divorce when you’re 16 years old, it’s still difficult to deal with.
These difficulties will most likely follow you to college as well, even if you think moving away will be your out from dealing with the separate houses, family drama and confusing schedules (personally, I was most looking forward to having all of my belongings in one spot and not forgetting something at the other parent’s house). Although college will aid in a few of these aspects, packing up and moving away completely can present a whole new set of challenges if you come from a divorced family. Based off my experience, there were a few things I struggled with in the beginning and continue to deal with using strategies I’ve learned over the years to help me.
First, I had to accept the fact that I will need to repeat the same stories over and over again on the phone. This was probably the most frustrating thing, and I got really sick of explaining to my mom, then step-dad, then dad and then my grandma the same story of how the start of school was going for me and what I’m up to. It’s a lot easier when parents are together and you can talk to them on speakerphone or one parent can relay what you say to the other and fill them in. Obviously, I still had to repeat conversations when I lived at home before college, but there wasn’t as much to catch my parents and family up on since I saw them every other day and there weren’t many new developments in my middle and high school life. To this day I need to remind myself before I call my family members that they’re hearing my updates for the first time and I need to be patient and thorough when filling them in on my life, even though I just want to respond with “Fine,” “It’s going well,” and “Yeah” to everything after hearing the same questions and explaining the same story three times.
Speaking of phone calls, I’ve learned to schedule when in a week I will call family members. This comes with learning how long you usually spend talking to different people. For example, I know I can call my mom when I’m walking to class and chat for a quick 10 minutes, but if I call my dad or grandma I need to allow for at least a half hour. No matter what, it’s important you keep in touch with both sides of your family, even if you’re super busy. Sometimes I find myself having talked to my mom three times during the week, but I haven’t called my dad yet. Frequent communication will keep everyone in the loop and will save you time and lengthy conversations in the long run if you call everyone regularly to update them.
Above all, I think the hardest part about leaving my two homes and moving to college was leaving my older sister, Karli. Through all of the drastic changes growing up, living between two houses and dealing with the drama and problems that accompany a divorce, my sister was the only one constant thing in life. We endured it all together, and when she left for college two years before I did, I got a taste of what life without her would be like; I knew it was going to be tough. So when I left for college as well, I knew communication with her would be more important than ever since we both were away from our hometown and are living separate lives. She is still the one person in my life who I can talk to about anything, especially our family, and she will understand where I’m coming from and how I feel. It’s so important to find that one person who has been a constant for you in your life before college and maintain that relationship; it will keep you connected to the memories and happenings from home.
All of these things have to do with being away at college, but I think the greatest struggle I still deal with is what to do when I visit home on the weekends or for breaks. To be honest, going home stresses me out because I have two days to spend time with separate family members in addition to my hometown friends, rather than just going to one home to see my parents together. It’s difficult trying to manage my time and not overcommit to plans in a weekend, especially when all I want to do is relax with my family and not run all over town to do so. But, I’ve learned that you need to enter the weekend or break with a set plan of when you will see certain sides of your family and communicate this to them before traveling home. It’s much harder to coordinate a time to get together with sides of your family the day of, and having to cancel or reschedule something when others are looking forward to seeing you can lead to hurt feelings.
All in all, having divorced parents isn’t easy – especially in college. Adjusting to this will take time, patience and communication. Once you’ve mastered these skills, keeping in touch and connected to sides of your family will get easier! It’s also nice to know that other students are in the same boat as you, so I encourage you to reach out to other floor-mates, roommates and friends if you find yourself in a family situation you don’t know how to deal with…odds are somebody near you has been through the same thing! Also, Counseling & Wellness Services on campus is also a great resource if you’d like to speak to a professional confidentially about your situation.