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November 12, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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Anxiety and my parents' breakup


I have anxiety and I don't know how to conquer it. My mum and dad have recently broken up and I'm struggling really badly. My dad is really upset. I really miss him and don't know what to do.

What shall I do about my parents' breakup and my anxiety?

Molly, 14 years old


Dear Molly,

What you are experiencing is a normal reaction to a nasty situation. Your parents have broken up. They don't get along with each other anymore, but you love them both, and are forced to choose. You want both, and that's impossible, so you're in a bind.

Who could stay happy in that situation?

Also, your dad has moved out, and you miss him. That's grief, and you are entitled to grieve when you have suffered a loss.

It may help to look ahead in time. Two years from now you'll be 16. Things will have settled down. Assuming your parent's breakup is permanent, design what the best life for you will be. You'll be spending time with your dad; every second weekend and half the holidays is a typical arrangement. Write down a plan for how you will be spending this time with him. Write down a plan for how you will be helping your mum to get on with life. Of course you don't need to wait two years. Once you have the design, you can do these things, right now. So, rather than anxiety about facing an unknown situation, you can take charge of your life, and make it the best you can.

Here's something else: Do you want mum and dad to be happy again? That probably means that once they have settled down after the breakup, both of them will seek a new person to spend time with. Some kids react to the new partner with hostility. Instead, you can welcome in someone who will make a beloved person feel better. So, if and when your mum has a new guy, if and when your dad has a new lady, make friends with that person. Again, this puts you in charge, and gives you the ability to improve a touchy situation. And you may end up with four loving parents instead of two.

Separation and divorce are all too common in our society. It has a very bad impact on some children, leaves others unscathed, and makes some into better, stronger, more compassionate people. You can deliberately choose to put yourself in this third group, by doing what I have suggested.

You're welcome to email me back.



This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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