KidTalk: Deciding Where to Live
My Parents Are Getting Divorced. Now They Want Me to Decide Where to Live?
Q: I am a teen whose has parents that are getting a divorce. They both expect me to decide which parent I want to live with I just don’t know how to make a decision. Do you have any advice? All Mixed Up
Dear Mixed Up,
I am really sorry to hear about the situation with your parents. When divorce often kids feel caught in the middle between their parents and it’s a tough place to be. While laws vary from state to state, usually children do not get to decide where they live until they are 18 years old.
Sometimes a judge may consider a child’s preference but it is only one factor out of many. What that means is, you do not have to decide who you live with but if you wanted to share your thoughts with the judge, you could. However, that fact does not always stop parents from asking kids to make a decision.
Have you told your parents how you feel? When parents aren’t getting along, it can be really hard to talk with them about how you feel. Some kids worry that if they share their feelings they might make things worse or upset one of their parents. However when a divorce happens parents have strong feelings too and lose sight of how their children are being affected.
Perhaps you can let them know that you love them both and you do not want to choose. Remember your feelings do not have to be the same as Mom or Dad’s and you do not have to take sides. Kids should always be able to love both parents regardless of where they live or how they spend time with their parents.
I know right now it may feel like your world is upside down but don’t give up hope, things usually get better with time.
NOTE TO PARENTS:
Asking children to choose where they want to live places kids in a no-win situation. Children desperately want to love and be loved by both of their parents. Further children have a better chance of making a successful adjustment when they emotionally and psychologically feel connected to both parents and both homes. Having to choose one home over the other places a tremendous burden on children and they almost always feel like they are betraying one of their parents.
With teens it is certainly appropriate to ask for their input about living arrangements and the schedule but the final decision should always be made by Mom and Dad. If you and the other parent are having trouble agreeing on arrangements or a schedule you may want to seek out a neutral third a party such as a mediator or counselor to help you. When talking with the other parent be supportive of their relationship and try to keep conversations focused on what is best for your child. Remember a compromise is an agreement that nobody likes but everyone can live with.