How having divorced parents has made me more independent

By Amanda Zacharias
January 13, 2020

It was on Aug. 10, 2010 that my parents sat my brother and me down at the kitchen table and said they were getting a divorce. I didn’t know it then, but that was the day when I became more self-reliant and independent than I ever was before and frankly more than I was ready for. 

When my parents got married in 1992 the divorce rate was 3.3 percent, the rate in 2010 dropped to 2.7 and the current rate for 2019 is 2.6 percent, according to the CDC. 

It is my belief that children of divorced parents, aged 10 and older, are forced to grow up being more independent and self reliant than other children. 

According to an article featured by Crouse Law Group, author and psychologist Carl E Pickhardt “has observed younger children becoming more dependent on their parents during the tumultuous months after a split, while tweens, preteens, and teens grow more independent.” The article goes on to explain how the different age groups may react to parental separation. 

Pickhardt also has a featured article on PsychologyToday where he discusses the different reactions based on age and why adolescents are more likely to become more independent. Older children are already beginning to test the waters of being apart from their parents more often, especially as friends become more important and are the “favored companions.” When a divorce is thrown into the mix, teens are more likely to accelerate this process of favoring friends over parental relationships. 

“The more independent-minded adolescent tends to deal more aggressively with divorce…more resolved to disregard family discipline and take care of himself since parents have failed to keep the commitments to the family they were originally made,” Pickhardt said. 

I was 14 years old when my parents got divorced and almost instantly felt the need to “grow up.” I was just about to start my freshman year of high school and was trying out for the school field hockey team. The practice schedule was all over the place and it became my responsibility to make sure that I had a parent around to drive me. As a freshman I didn’t know anyone else on the team that was old enough to drive so it was all on me. I was also working part-time, so throwing work into the ride-sharing mix was even more complicated. 

As a teenager I became rebellious in school, my grades slipped and I was the only one that seemed to notice I was changing. I went from being an all-star student and role model to someone who was getting detention and making all the wrong decisions. Even now, 10 years later, I can’t say that it made sense or what I thought I was gaining by acting that way but I always thought it was the only option. 

Pickhardt mentions in his article that younger children may try to get their parents back together while adolescents may try to get back at their parents. Maybe that’s what I was trying to do but I think it will take more than writing an article to get to the bottom of that. 

“For the parent who divorces with an adolescent, the young person’s increased dedication to self-interest must be harnessed by insisting on increased responsibility as more separation and independence from family occurs.” 

When teens are forced to deal with the uncomfortable situation of divorced parents, those teens are led to grow up faster than necessary. Those teens become more self-reliant and are expected to take care of themselves as they are left to their own devices.

Amanda’s family, 2017. Photo from Brittany Zacharias.

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Amanda Zacharias

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