9th April 2012 was the day my parents decided to separate. The date of their separation will always stay with me as my life rapidly changed after. Decisions such as 'What shall we have for dinner tonight?' suddenly changed to decisions concerning whether me and my sisters will still be able to live together. This dramatic turn of events had several repercussions because I became so heavily focused on my one single goal to reach university that I ignored events whereas my other two younger sisters were worried and distressed.
I will not go into what actually happened during my parents divorce but I lived between friends' houses for two months during my A-Level examinations because my personal life meant I would have found it incredibly difficult to focus. This was an incredibly humbling experience because I was stripped off everything and was able to put my sole energy into the one thing that could improve my situation, which was my education. I sought refuge in education because this provided me with a stable and solid basis.
One way that I did deal with my parents divorce was attempting to find ways that I could support myself to reduce the risk of miserable feelings that can follow after a parent's separation. I was so surprised that there was very little support for young adults when their parents are separating. Instead I found substantial and weighty material stating that simply because my parents were separating, I was far more likely to commit crime, have depression and drop out of education. Only last year, one newspaper stated the 'stress of divorce can triple risk of children getting diabetes'. Yet, there was no material attempting to reduce the risk of these negative consequences.
I could understand if there was no material providing support if divorce was a taboo subject within society. But there are several soap operas exaggerating the consequences of divorce for a family. In EastEnders, Lauren Branning becomes an alcoholic after her parents divorce. In Coronation Street, Sophie Webster becomes depressed after her parents divorce. In Emmerdale, Belle Dingle was torn over whether to inform her mother that her father was committing adultery. Whilst these soap operas do inform the public how divorce can negatively affect young people, they also fail to show that divorce can be a positive and enlightening experience.
After much deliberation, I choose not to keep my story private because divorce affects so many people on different scales. Some can often feel alone. I believe if personal boundaries aren't broken, then the cycle of people feeling alone will only continue. If I don't speak out, then who will? If not me, then who?
I have turned a traumatic experience into a positive one because with FixersUK, I have created a divorce support booklet for young adults. The booklet is currently being used by several schools nationwide and the NHS. In all honesty, I was surprised about the reaction I had because I thought nothing much would come from the booklet, as it was already not being spoken about within society. This shows how a simple thing can attempt to fill the need for support for young adults. Yet, there is still so much more that can be done to ensure young adults are provided with a voice during this parent's separation.
With Voices in the Middle, we are campaigning for the Ministry of Justice and the Prime Minister to increase the provision of child-inclusive mediation by increasing Legal Aid Agency funding to cover the additional costs of including young adults in family mediation. We are also campaigning for family lawyers to ensure children and young adults can be heard in family law processes in UK, including mediation, when decisions are made concerning them. Some critics believe child-inclusive mediation can be emotionally damaging for children but surely it is more traumatic if children have no say in decisions affecting them? This may make them feel unheard, unwanted and ignored. In my parents divorce, I had no say in any decisions such as how I felt about the divorce. I felt as though my thoughts and feelings did not matter. I was simply treated as a product of my parents' marriage. Child-inclusive mediation will provide children with the right to be heard if they wish.
For anyone reading this who is involved in a divorce, there are many options available to you. I want to encourage everyone to seek out information that can help you through this situation and make your own informed choices. Divorce is very common and you are not on your own. In fact, in 2012 there were 13 divorces an hour in England and Wales. Life has many challenges but everyone has the ability to take control of their own situation. Find a silver lining in things that test you, as happiness is far sweeter that way.
As for me, I finally come to terms with my parents' divorce three years after my parents originally announced they were going to separate. In a funny way, I really don't think I would be the person I am today if it wasn't for my parents separation. I learnt so many lessons such as resilience, independence and adaptability.
Let's start focusing on the positives rather than negatives of divorce.
Link to my divorce support booklet- http://voicesinthemiddle.org.uk/story/emilys-guide/