The other night, my friends and I were out celebrating the end of the semester and one of our friends, who is graduating early this December. Let's call him Matt. As we sat in Matt's dorm afterwards debating whether or not to order food (wings or pizza is always a big decision), I learned that Matt's parents just recently divorced a few months ago.
Upon hearing this information, my ears immediately perked up. You see, finding a person your age who is going through a divorce while in college isn't exactly common, so it's kind of exciting to come across someone who is experiencing the same thing as you. We're a rare breed, us college divorce kids. Finding a college kid going through divorce is kind of like when you're at the bar and meet a completely random person who 1.) was your kindergarten classmate before moving to Alaska ("You had Mrs. Sullivan too?! Shut. Up.") and 2.) who enjoys singing "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" at Karaoke Night just as much as you do. It's great.
As I grilled Matt on details about how he felt (as our other friends sat on Matt's bed giggling about my Dr. Phil-like questions), I was surprised about what Matt had to say. I was totally prepared to give Matt advice about how to deal with coming home for the holidays, what NOT to say to your mom when those final papers come in the mail and worst case scenario, give my whole look-on-the-bright-side-at-least-you'll-get-double-the-presents this year speech. But Matt didn't need my speech.
Turns out, not only does Matt's family live in a two-family house allowing his dad to simply move downstairs, but his parents' divorce "hasn't really affected" him.
But while Matt said the divorce had little impact on him (he has a job lined up and is apartment-hunting in Boston), he did say he felt guilty. He said he wished his parents hadn't waited so long to get a divorce, but they held out until their kids were finishing up college to do so.
I agree with Matt. He shouldn't feel guilty, but being in his shoes, it's sometimes just better to go through something like divorce sooner rather than later. When you're in college--especially during your freshman year--it's a tough life adjustment. There's those awful 8 a.m. classes, roommates who believe showering is a foreign concept and it is questionable if the beef served on Taco Tuesdays is actually meat. It's not easy to be away from home and get that kind of news. But at the same time, making the move to get a divorce is like making an appointment to get your wisdom teeth out--there's never a convenient time.
It's nice for parents to have that extra sensitivity and to think of their kids who are in college when they're going through something so personal and life-changing. But the truth is Moms and Dads, get the divorce when you want to get the divorce. Don't drag your feet for four years because you're worried about affecting your kids' college experience. It's definitely going to impact your kid no matter what year they are in school (or age), but it's not a deal breaker by any means. Trust me, your decision concerning when to have a divorce will not be responsible for ruining your kid's college years (although excessive amounts of Four Loko combined with frequent all-nighters might). I'm not saying you should dump the news on your kid when you're dropping them off during Move-In day before you drive off into the sunset, but sometimes ripping the Band-Aid off sooner rather than later gives everybody more time to heal. Waiting until they're about to graduate from college may buy you more time, but at the end of the day, hearing it your freshman year versus hearing it your senior year is going to probably feel the same way. I can't speak for all college students, but I'd rather have my parents divorce my freshman year when they wanted to than feel "guilty" that they suffered through an extra four tension-filled years just for my benefit. It just makes for resentful feelings later.
Parents, you can do a great job of hiding the Christmas presents under the bed every year and the fact that you'll still occasionally sneak cigarette breaks in the garage (hey, we all have our vices), but you can't hide tension. Don't wait until the tension is so thick that you need to use a knife to cut it when you could use a spork instead--it's way easier (and less painful).
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