It Happened To Me: 5 Ways To Cope When Your Parents Get Divorced In Your 20s

by Lauren Wells

When you’re officially out of the house and leave your “happily” married parents behind to start your own adventure, divorce may seem like a curse word thrown around in other homes, but certainly not yours. That is, until one day you get the call that it's over: Your parents are getting a divorce.

So, what’s the big deal? Pretty much everyone you knew growing up had divorced parents, and they turned out just fine. Why are you surprised?

Did you think it couldn’t happen to your family? People will tell you you’re lucky because at least they waited until you were grown, but you still can't help but feel horrible.

You begin to reflect on every aspect of their marriage (that you were aware of), in an attempt to decipher what was genuine and what was a show for your sake.

You’re an adult with your own apartment, your own relationships, friends and job, so why does your parents’ divorce feel so debilitating?

Let the shock settle in

It’s completely okay to let yourself be blown away by this piece of news, as it likely means 20-plus years of marriage is now coming to an end. You’re allowed to scream, cry and kick like a child, but only for so long.

You’re an adult now, which means that temper tantrums, should they happen, can only last for a small amount of time before moving on. Your whole family life, including your traditions, is about to change.

Allow yourself to succumb to the shock, as long as you remember to breathe and pick yourself back up. I personally recommend a long walk to think things through.

Don’t get bogged down by the messy details

Why exactly your parents’ marriage unraveled isn’t your business, and frankly, you don’t want to know the gory details. The reality of their intimate undoing might deeply bother you, and you need to focus on taking steps toward healing.

These messy details will prevent you from moving forward, as they only launch you into the past, into moments you can’t change or un-know.

If your parents have a tendency to overshare with you, be sure to set some healthy limits, and don't be afraid to do so. This is a painful process for you, too, and the details might make you see one, or both parents in a different light.

Be Angry

… but not for too long. It’s alright to embrace your frustration in this situation, but don’t direct your anger at the wrong person. Channel it into something productive, like exercising or taking a hard look at your own relationships, friendships and family ties. What areas of your life need strengthening?

Let this anger propel you into determination and success. Do you want to drop that extra 10 pounds? Need a new job? Keep yourself busy without ignoring the pain you’re feeling. Stay conscious of your emotions and choose activities that will be therapeutic.


Hindsight is a real bitch. You’ll pick up on all the hints you missed and all the signs of this impending divorce that were out of your control.

You’ll think you could have helped, could have pushed couples therapy down their throats or been more attentive when you sensed they were unhappy.

This type of thinking gets you absolutely nowhere. It’s okay to lean on your friends, wallow in a few beverages and listen to your BFF's own divorce-related experience to help you process this shocking news.


Keeping the lines of communication open between you and both parents is key. Although it might be uncomfortable, you’re allowed to voice your opinions and feelings, especially if they have done something that directly hurts you.

Be gentle and pick your words carefully because your parents are hurting, too. Being able to work through this tough time together will make life easier for you all in the long run, especially as your lives begin to change.

As cliché as it sounds, this gets easier with time, and your new lives will begin to morph into a new normal.

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