How Do I Deal with Divorce?

"My parents are divorced and they don't get along at all."
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Q. My parents are divorced and they don't get along at all. They badmouth each other to me. They put me in the middle and force me to choose sides. I've told them how much this bothers me, but they still do it. What can I do?

A. Your parents are hurting and unfortunately, they aren't handling their pain well. They shouldn't be placing you in the middle of their issues. They shouldn't be using you as a friend to gossip or vent with. You did the right thing by sharing your feelings with them.

But now what? First, refuse to choose sides or to be drawn into their gossip and negative talk. Be very intentional and consistent about not gossiping with either parent or tolerating mean comments about the other parent. Be loving and respectful toward them—they are still your parents. But in a calm and gentle way, let each one know you won't take sides and you won't join in when they put down the other parent.

Second, pray for them every day. If God can create human life and cause the beauty of a sunset, then he could change the hearts of your parents. But, that might not happen. They may never change how they interact. With that said, pray that God would comfort you in these trials, help you respond appropriately to their behavior, and give you strength.

Third, make sure you're getting the help and insight you need. Talk to adults other than your parents about your family dynamic. My suggestion is to seek out a youth worker or pastor you trust. You may want to consider finding a professional counselor to talk with as well.

With any of these trusted adults, talk about your struggles and your feelings about the divorce. The effects of divorce won't just affect you now. Feelings like bitterness, guilt and resentment over the divorce could harm your view of marriage or even of yourself. To avoid that, you may need to work through the hurt of your parents' divorce—and their current hostilities—with a trusted adult, through prayer and by focusing on what the Bible says about marriage and love. Romans 12:10 instructs us to "outdo one another in showing honor" (ESV). And that'a a good motto for you as you relate to your parents.

Jim is an author, longtime youth worker and founder of HomeWord, a group seeking to honor God through strong families.

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