Q: I’m 19 years old and living with my parents while I attend college close to home. They’re having a really hard time in their marriage. I’m trying to be supportive to both of them, but they try to put me in the middle of their arguments. If I don’t take a side, then they are angry with me. I feel helpless. How can I help them see how it is affecting me?
A: Our heart goes out to you. We often hear of the wounds a troubled marriage can inflict on young children, but your experience shows that it can happen to adults as well.
Author Sandi Greene has written about the pain she experienced as a result of her parents’ divorce. We’re not suggesting your own parents are destined for divorce, but we think you’ll find Sandi’s advice helpful.
First, she recommends that you not become isolated. Do you have close friends nearby, or classmates, to whom you can talk about your frustrations? Don’t endure this situation alone.
Second, don’t allow yourself to believe that the problems your parents are experiencing are your fault. You didn’t cause them, and it’s not your responsibility to fix them.
Third, don’t be drawn into taking sides. You can’t play referee and you can’t be expected to pit one parent against the other. When they try to draw you into the melee, walk away.
Finally, forgive your parents to the extent possible. It’s wrong for them to manipulate you in this way, but try to understand that by drawing you into their arguments, they’re attempting to deal with their own pain in an inappropriate manner.
Finally, talk openly and honestly with your parents about the pain this situation has caused. Urge them, as lovingly as possible, to seek counselling. This will help them work through their issues with an objective third party, and relieve you of the burden of trying to be their mediator.
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