Ebony's parents split up when she was 9 years old—and she says she has felt guilty about it for seven years. She says she saw her mom kissing another man and told her father. "So I do feel like that was my fault, because if I wouldn't have told, and then she wouldn't have said anything, he wouldn't have known."
After her parents' divorce, Ebony, who is now 16, says she began acting out in dangerous ways. "I just thought my mom was the biggest hypocrite in the world, so I was doing whatever I wanted to do, and I was rebelling," she says. "And I did it on purpose to make her mad, but it hurt me more than it hurt her."
Now Ebony regrets her behavior, but she doesn't know what to do. Ebony says she has never felt like she could tell her parents what she is going through, even though she is very close to her dad. "I brought all of this on myself with stupid decisions that I can't take back," she says. "I'm pretty sure some part of him will disown me. He'll see me as a slut, and not as Ebony. And it's not me. It's not who I am. It's just an outlet, a bad outlet."
Gary tells Ebony that in order to be truly close to her parents, she needs to start relying on love. "She courageously agreed that if I would be there, that she could spill the beans, connect with her parents and just tell once and for all," he says. "And I guaranteed to her that her parents are not going to see her as a slut. They're going to see her as their daughter that they want to love and keep loving and keep in touch with."
With the support of Gary and her aunt, Ebony told her mother, Belinda, and her father, J.D., about her past. "Nobody else is going to accept me, so I need you guys," she says. After hearing what his daughter has to say, J.D. says, "Well, I'm always going to accept you."
At first, Belinda has difficulty accepting what Ebony has told her. Gary says it is fine for parents and children to disagree. "That does not mean that you can't accept it and love them no matter what choice they make for themselves," he says. "She can know that it's not okay and it's not cool with you, but that does not mean that you can't say, 'I love you. I accept you.'"
Belinda says Gary is right—even though she still doesn't condone Ebony's actions. She says to Ebony, "But I'm going to still love you because I do believe that things do happen for a reason. So I'm going to be there if you need to talk to me for whatever reason, because I won't want you to take the same road again. I'm not going to lose you just because this is the path you chose to take. And I love you too much for that."
Although Ebony has been feeling like she caused her parents' divorce for
years, Belinda says she never even realized that her daughter had told her
father about the kiss. "I didn't know all of this she carried. We treated her
basically like an adult, so I didn't even think it affected her in any way
because she saw how we acted in the house," she says.
"But how can you say you treated her like an adult?" Oprah asks. "Because [as] an adult, if you were going to leave, you would explain why you were leaving."
Gary says parents shouldn't wait for their children to approach them with their problems. "I mean, how many of us as teenagers were running to our parents with every problem that we had?"
Instead of waiting, Gary says there is a talk that every family should have—one that Gary and his wife had with their own five children. "We identified two adults that we trust and they trust in their lives, and we all met together and we said, 'Listen, we want you to come to us. Of course we'll never judge you. We'll always love you. But here's the deal. If you don't feel like you can come to us, here's two people you can go to individually and we give them permission to make decisions on our behalf for you—and they never have to tell us, if that's what's going to work for you.'"
These go-to parents can act like substitute parents for your children in a time of need. "That way, at least we know as parents our children are using adults with experience to help guide them, instead of their colleagues," Gary says.
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