Living with Divorced Parents

by Sarah Jennings, Staff Writer

A line of energetic second-graders filed into the classroom, shuffling through rows of desks to find their place. Olivia Smith, who was usually talking off a friend’s ear, sat quietly at her desk. Her blank face brought concerns from her friends but she brushed them off when asked what was wrong. Her behavior even raised concern in her teacher. Her teacher talked to her but she still was stuck in her head. As she did her work, she quickly became fully spaced out, frustrated, she contemplated the many unanswered questions she had for her parents. Confused why her father would no longer be living in her house. And why would she have to live in two different houses? 

A few weeks later, Olivia was back to normal. Her parents made the change in lifestyle as smooth as possible. The newness of not having both her mother and father under one roof confused her. Her parents tried their best to explain the situation to Olivia. Soon, she got used to her reality and it was just her life; she accepted it. Months later and her new schedule was routine. 

Olivia is now a junior in high school and has been swapping house for more than eight years. Her parents divorced when she was in second grade, seven going on eight. Since Olivia is now almost seventeen years old, some of the memories faded, leaving basically only knowing a life living with separated parents. Olivia stays with her father Mondays to Wednesday and then goes to her mother’s house from Wednesday night to Friday, but the weekends switch every week. The divorce process can be difficult but being young and innocent, some would say not remembering is a gift. While the environment of her home is a vague cloud of confusion, the feeling and emotions still stand. 

When it first happened she said, “I kind of isolated myself from other people.” Her life was changing, her family was suddenly separating. “I remember being sad but not for a long time. I just remember a short period of my life, where I was sad about it, and then it just kind of felt like natural after that” says Olivia Smith. Olivia has an older brother and sister. All three siblings helped support and guide each other through lifestyle change. Switching houses was something that brought the three closer in the end. The relationship she has with both of her parents are strong, she hasn’t felt a drift within her connection to her parents. 

It was a Wednesday afternoon when Olivia was walking home after school. She soon realized what day it was and began to make a list of all the clothing she needed to pack for the rest of the week. Even though it was like clockwork at this point, she didn’t want to leave anything behind. She arrives home and is greeted by her father. Olivia grabs some food and heads to her room to start her schoolwork. She checks her agenda and does one assignment and decides to do the rest later in the night at her mother’s house. Olivia browses social media and gets lost in the feed.

 Forty-five minutes later, Olivia realizes the time and dreadfully exits her bed and starts to pack her bag. She shoves pretty much her whole wardrobe in her bag and begins to rush as her brother calls in her room for her to hurry up. She puts her makeup and accessories in a bag and grabs as many shoes as she could carry. Olivia is being weighed down by her bags but manages to make it out the door after saying goodbye to her dad for the next three or possibly five days. Olivia gets in the car, throws her bags in the back, and drives to three streets down to her mother’s house. Once again, time to unpack and clean her room for the next few days. 


Lindsey Jones and her parents wake up early on a Saturday morning to head out on a hike. Buddy, the family’s new puppy, rushes out the door, pulling Lindsey with him. They head to the trail and feel the cold morning air turn warm. By the end of their hike, they are dragging their feet. They all laugh and watch Buddy run circles around them. The Jones’s return home and relax for the rest of the day. 

Lindsey soon remembers a time where her family wasn’t like how it was that day: fun, adventurous, and loving. Her parents divorced when she was five years old but couldn’t stay apart for long. She recalled the weird feels of not having both of her parents in one house. Her young age kept her naive but it was for the good. “Well my parents really didn’t make it obvious that they’re fighting, I guess. So it was a pretty happy environment. But when they moved out, they had to tell us we were going to live separately” says Lindsey. Her memories were not bad but just a strange two years in elementary school. Nick Jones, Lindsey’s older brother, was definitely more in tune with the situation but their parents made the separation as smooth as possible. Lindsey was very close to her brother then and is still to this day. It was during the separation when Mrs. Jones moved to their current home in Glen Rock. Lindsey questions her parents on the reason they separated, even with her own suspicions, she had to ask. Her parents don’t give her full reasoning, and she has been able to settle with what they have told her. 

Both Lindsey and her brother had almost come to the regularity of their new lifestyle until one day, something sparked between her parents. At one of Nick’s baseball games, Mr. and Mrs. Jones saw each other and both expressed they wanted to be together again. Lindsey was overjoyed when her parents got back together. She had both parents in one home and her family back to the way it was. Mr. and Mrs. Jones planned a wedding on the beach, where Lindsey was a flower girl at her parents’ wedding. She always remembers it as a happy memory and an amazing day for her parents. Lindsey could not imagine life if her parents hadn’t talked at a baseball game and decided to be together again. Lindsey says that the whole experience brought her parents back together. She saw her parents at the worst of their relationship but have been seeing the best of it since the day they got back together. 

The Marri Marriage and Religion Research Institute tells us, “We do know that for all U.S. children, as the latest data from the 2009 American Community Survey, only 47 percent reach age 17 in an intact married family” (Fagan & Churchill, pg.2). Separation and divorce is something very common. When a married couple divorces, it is very difficult, but when there are children involved it is a bit different. It is easy for a child to be oblivious to the circumstances surrounding them, especially if the parents are good at hiding it from them. But for some parents, divorces can get brutal and bring out the worst in a family. Children that are not shielded to the harsh environment of a family in the process of a divorce could change them as a person. When a couple divorces and they have a child, it can leave them feeling guilty, that it was their fault their parents split up.  This could further lead to behavioral problems and, or poor performance in academics. Divorce challenges the relationship between both mother and father. Parents are dealing with their own feelings about divorcing their spouse but also dealing with a child whose family just split. “The primary effect of divorce (and of the parental conflict that precedes the divorce) is a decline in the relationship between parent and child…The support they receive from home is rated much lower by children of divorced parents than by children from intact homes” (Fagan & Churchill, pg.3). 


Currently, Olivia and Lindsey both live full and happy lives. Both have seen their parents’ relationship in bad places and been able to cope with the situation and find support from their siblings or from friends. Unlike Lindsey, Olivia didn’t see her parents reconcile. Olivia did not let her parents’ experience with marriage affect her outlook. She can see herself in the future getting married and finding someone to love. Packing and switching houses have led to some frustration and left behind items but Olivia is able to figure out how to handle it. Holidays and birthday are tricky sometimes but after years of the same routine, it has made it easier for all three Smith children. Lindsey is a different story. Her parents found a way to bring their relationship back together. The family is closer than every and Lindsey is thankful as ever that her parents mended their relationship.