Dear Auntie,

My parents got a divorce this year and now I have to figure out how/who to spend winter break with. I am debating about going home because no matter what I decide, I’m going to lose.

I’ve been putting off thinking about this as much as I can all year to better focus on school but now it’s coming up and I’m not sure if I can deal with it. – Worried

Dear Worried,

Postponing these emotional issues may have seemed like a good idea for the short term but now is a great time to be proactive. You don’t have to do it alone. Prepare someone you trust to provide you with emotional support during the break.

If you can, take a couple days without school before you go home to process the divorce. Are you mad? Happy? Disappointed? If you can, set an appointment with counseling or find a trusted advisor to help you think it through.

Start by envisioning yourself as an autonomous adult. Redesign relationships with your parents that match this new vision.

This transition is rarely easy but, with some forethought and consistency, the work you do now can ease the way for healthy future relationships.

Do your conversations with your parents seem like an old worn record? Pick out the songs you want to replay and which to skip. Outline for yourself (in writing) what you see as an ideal relationship with each parent.

Think about how you can stop feeding into old lyrics and rewrite the song. This will require firm boundary setting. What do you need from them to keep yourself happy and strong? What are you willing to share with them to give them the support they need without becoming surrogate parents to them?

Who do you go home to? Call each parent with your expectations and gauge whether either is ready for this new relationship.

You can say something like, “This is what I’ll need from you… this is what I can give… does that work for you?” Go see the one that is closest to ready.

If neither is, see if you can find a friend to go home with until they are. If both are ready, split your time between them. Knowing your boundaries up front will help this tremendously. Call your friends/counselor when you need them.

Siblings can be your best support and they will need yours as well. Start by listening to what they are going through. They will take this differently than you do. Listen and be supportive, try to see it from their angle before misreading their actions/words. Modeling healthy behaviors may help them do the same.

Remember, your parents are adults, it is not your job to fix or save them. Your job is to be best adult person you can be. Good luck, school will be here when you get back. I promise, you won’t be the only one happy to be returning.

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