When my parents announced to my siblings and I they were getting a divorce, my first response was, "You're joking, right?" They never showed any sign of struggle in their relationship, so the news came as a complete shock. At age fourteen, I had a few friends with divorced parents, but I never imagined it would actually happen to me. When it did happen… my life changed forever. Although I would love for everything to go back to normal, the struggles I've faced have made me into the person I am today. Here are just a few of the unexpected life lessons I've learned from being a child of divorce.

You never know what someone is truly going through.

I have always been a naturally happy and smiley person. When my parents got divorced, I didn't want anyone to know what I was going through. I pretended like nothing was wrong and didn't tell my friends at school for a long time. To the rest of the world, I was happy. No one had any idea what I was really going through at home.

It wasn't until I started opening up about my story that I realized- everyone is fighting their own battle. Often times we are so caught up in our own lives, that we never stop to ask someone how they are really doing. We assume because our friend has a smile on their face, they are just fine.

A good friend of mine summarized this perfectly, "Sometimes the happiest people are the ones going through the most hurt." Being a child of divorce, not only have I experienced this first hand, but I am much more cognizant of other people's feelings as a result. We often don't realize it, but our actions have a deeper impact on someone who is secretly hurting. So, do your best to be kind to others, and take the time to really check up on people.

Sometimes it's hard to stay positive.

There is a lot of stress that comes with having divorced parents. All of a sudden you're living in two different houses and following a new schedule. When my parents first separated, they ended up living thirty minutes apart. It was extremely difficult adjusting to two completely different homes that were so far away from one another. I hated not having all of my belongings in one place and I quickly got tired of packing a bag just to go visit my parents.

Even after all of the change, it is still hard to stay positive- especially when there is conflict between my parents. Often times the struggles I experience at home make it hard to stay focused at school. Although it's not always easy, choosing to focus on the positive and surrounding myself with people who lift me up has helped me through some of my toughest seasons. If you know someone who is going through a tough situation, continue to love and support them. You don't always have to know exactly what to say- just listening and being a shoulder to lean on will mean the world to a person who's struggling. And if you are dealing with issues at home, keep fighting. Sometimes it takes more energy to be positive than it does to be negative, but focusing on the good will make you feel so much better in the long run.

Asking for help does not make you weak.

Asking for help is extremely difficult. I am a very independent person who doesn't like bothering people with my problems. And for a long time, I was afraid to ask for help because I didn't want to seem weak. I kept all of my thoughts and feelings bottled up and it only made matters worse. Eventually, I realized I could not go through my parents' divorce alone. I reached out to pastors at my church, opened up to friends, and started seeing a counselor. I felt so much better. I could not believe that I kept to myself for so long, not knowing the comfort and relief getting help would bring.

We are not meant to go through life alone- that's why we have family, friends, teachers, counselors, pastors, co-workers, etc. to help us through life. If you're in need of help, do not hesitate to reach out to someone. Asking for help does not make you weak- it makes you strong. I wish someone would have told me that sooner.

There is good to come out of every situation.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. Now, this sentiment is not meant to justify any wrong actions or occurrences- it simply means that there is something to be learned from every situation. The beautiful and frustrating thing about life is that we cannot control the cards we are dealt. However, the challenges we face make us stronger. Of course, there are times I wish my family would go back to normal, but had my parents stayed together, I would not be the person I am today. I have grown as a leader for my younger siblings, a kinder friend to those around me, and a mentor for those going through similar experiences. I realize now that I am stronger than I ever imagined and I see the value of my worth. I still have bad days, but I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you are navigating through a tough time in your life, just remember- there is nothing you cannot handle. You will make it through and you will come out a stronger person because of it.