Question: Dear Luise: I just learned my parents are getting a divorce, finally. I know I am going to be okay, as I do understand why my parents need to split up. They just don’t get along and it is hard watching them be in pain. I am the oldest of 4 kids, 19, and still at home. Thing is, I have often felt like the parent of everyone. I do need a little advice on helping my sisters through this. My brother
will most likely go live with our Dad. He already takes Dad’s side in everything. But my two sisters are younger and are not going to understand. Do you have any advice, since it seems all the girls will be living together, with no man of the house? Thanks, Stella
Answer: Dear Stella: Your parents must have done something right because you sound like a fine young woman.
One of the most important things you can offer your younger sisters is being a role model for them. How you are responding to this crisis in your family is a pattern that they can see on a daily basis. Your understanding of your parent’s plight and acceptance of it will not go unnoticed. You can teach them more by your behavior and attitude than you could probably impart verbally.
Another priceless gift is to listen to them. They are probably confused and frightened. What they have known is going down the drain and the unknown may look bleak. Younger children often don’t see the stress in a marriage and just want to keep the status quo. Make room for them to tell you how they feel. It’s normal to be angry and distrustful. Parents aren’t supposed to have feet of clay.
Action may help as well. There are things they can do to contribute to their own well-being. You know what they are, I don’t. It may be learning to cook or helping them to decorate a room if your brother leaves and there’s extra space. Get them away when you can to movies, skating or whatever appeals to them that you can afford.
And finally, it is extremely important that you also cut yourself some slack. You may feel like you have been the only adult around but you aren’t and you deserve to have a life of your own. Your younger sisters aren’t your kids and your mom needs to step up to the plate.
To make sure that happens, it would be a wise move to seek counseling for your self. Find someone who will support your efforts and concerns. Also, in the future you will probably need some guidance as to just how much to take on and how long to continue in that capacity. Blessings, Luise