By Bill Sanders, Cox News Service
ATLANTA - Bill Sears endured a childhood trauma that has been, and will be, faced by millions. He survived the death of his parents' marriage. He had to pick sides, counsel his parents and learn how to interpret his feelings. Pretty heavy stuff for a little kid.
Now, nine years later, Bill is as close to an expert on these kinds of things as a 16-year-old can be. And he's willing to help anyone -- parent or kid -- he can.
A voracious reader and researcher, Bill studied divorce law to learn what rights children have. Just as important, he listened -- to friends at first, then to friends of friends, and now to just about anyone.
He started billsarena.com, the self-described "Internet's Best Divorce Site for Kids by a Kid." It's a blog, a forum and a news portal for information on parenting.
"I saw what I had gone through, and I didn't think it was right. No kid should go through this," Bill said. "It took a brutal emotional toll on me. I was 7 or 8 and they split. It was a metaphorical tug of war and I just want to say: Are you aware, parents?
"One parent fills the kid with lies about the other one. I'm a firm believer it goes on in all cases. Both of my parents did it pretty much equally."
In many ways Bill is a normal teen. A sophomore at Pope High, he plays tuba in the school's marching band. He's also an avid bass guitar player. Learning to play bass served as a diversion at first but now it's more of a passion.
Bill lives with his dad, Sam Sears, in east Cobb County. He has a good relationship with his mother and spends a lot of time with her as well.
When he started this Web site a year ago, he'd get a message or two a week from a kid or parent who wanted his take on things. He now gets those kinds of queries daily, and he responds with advice and what worked for him.
''It was mostly adults at first; they wanted to see things from the point of view of a kid," Bill said. ''Recently, I started to get kids from all over the nation -- once or twice a week at first, wanting help."
Bill is quick to point out that the main kind of help he can give is an understanding ear and his own experiences.
"I tell people: I'm not telling you to take my advice," he said. "Here's what's working for me, or here's how I see it."
Occasionally, the desperation is too deep for any teen to handle.
"One guy from Ohio was talking suicide," Sam Sears recalled. "I jumped in and reminded him that Bill was 14 at the time, and that he needed to find real help. When other kids e-mail him, he and I discuss most of them. He'll come up with answers and we go from there."
Sears embraces what his son does.
"I used to worry about him taking on the weight of the world," Sears said. "But he's passionate about this."
Bill has always been close to his dad, even when he was living with his mother. (Bill's mom declined to comment for this article.) The father-son bond was strengthened early in life when Sam Sears found himself as the primary caregiver for Bill when his daughter went through medical problems as a baby. Understandably, Bill's mom spent a lot of time in and around hospitals and doctor's offices. When Bill turned 14, he chose to live with his dad.
Even that was done analytically and shouldn't be mistaken as a full stamp of approval for Dad.
"I felt really angry at both of them," Bill said. "I have had outbursts, suffered depression, my grades were poor, I was quiet in school. It was definitely depression. I never felt guilty. It was their mistakes. But when I went to live with my dad, it wasn't me deciding which parent is less likely to do parental alienation. He does it as much as she does. It was the type of stress I'd have to deal with. The type of stress with him is easier for me to deal with.
"The type of stress is what made me choose."
newsobserver.com Teen tries to help others cope with divorce
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