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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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Students cope with emotional side effects of parents’ divorce

Emotional+Effects+of+Divorce
Photo by Graphic by Alexis Will
Emotional Effects of Divorce

According to an expert at Texas A&M, it is common for students whose parents have divorced to feel emotional distress. Studies show divorce will continue to impact a student’s life, even if their parents split up when they were young.
Away from home and away from their problems, two friends Jillian Sanders and Emily Bryant realized they have a common experience — both of their parents are divorced, one recent and one close to 10 years ago. Each had to figure out and accept her own way of managing her college life and home life, which sometimes have intertwined.
When environmental studies freshman Emily Bryant was in the fifth grade, her parents told her they were breaking up their marriage. According to Bryant, word of the divorce spread from her fellow students to their parents at her small private school.
“People were talking, and it was really tough on me, and I experienced an extreme amount of weight gain to cope with the emotional stress,” Bryant said. “I had a few close friends that were there with me through all of it, but it was just really hard.”
Bryant said she served as a counselor and friend for her parents before coming to college, constantly listening to their personal problems. Now away from home, she said a heavy load has been lifted off her shoulders.
“They can’t talk to me about their personal life as much as they want to, and even when my mom or dad tries to talk to me about that stuff now I’m kind of like, ‘You know, I don’t want to talk about it. I’m having a good day, I don’t want to be affected by it, what you’re talking about,’’’ Bryant said.
Unlike Bryant, Sanders’ emotions are fresh — her parents split her senior year of high school.
“I would say that the weirdest, most trippy part of this, is that I never thought it was going to be me,” Sanders said. “You know, I never thought I was going to be the one with divorced parents growing up because I thought everything was fine, and then one day it wasn’t fine, and they started arguing, and he moved out.”
Sanders said she currently deals with random 10 minute bursts of sadness or anger, even with instances that would not normally upset her. She said thoughts of her childhood and realization about her parents’ divorce can trigger these emotional flares, but she hopes in time these will dissipate.
Annmarie MacNamara is a clinical psychologist at A&M, who studies emotional effects of events such as divorce. She said change, in this case the change in the form of divorce, is an environmental factor which can create a variety of emotional consequences.
“There’s very variable responses in how people deal with that,” MacNamara said. “It’s definitely not always a negative thing. It can be better to see your parents be happy individually than upset together, but of course, still it’s a big change.”
The emotions students face caused by divorce can be bottled up or dismissed in the form of suppression, according to MacNamara. She recommended that students try to refrain from rejecting these feelings or thoughts and instead accept them to pursue a more effective emotional strategy.
“Emotions are actually designed to help us. They’re designed to tell us when something is wrong. And in time we need to pay attention to it,” MacNamara said. “And even though the modern world is not always like that — you know — it’s not like running into a dinosaur and you feel afraid and you feel like you need to run away. It can be more like social stress and sort of things that are heading our way and not dependent on physical survival.”
Both residents of Hullabaloo Hall, Sanders and Bryant said they have been talking through their emotions in late night conversations across their shared dorm room.
“I think it’s definitely helpful having her as a roommate because she’s already been through divorce, and since I’m currently going through it, it’s nice having someone who has already been there,” Sanders said.
Students experiencing stress, not just from divorce, can seek counseling through Student Counseling Services at https://scs.tamu.edu.
Editor’s Note: Jillian Sanders is a news reporter for The Battalion.

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