Breaking up is hard to do, especially if there are children involved.
“They got married and started having kids really young, so I think things changed really quickly for them,” Pope tells PEOPLE about living through her parents’ split when she was 11.
“It was a hard time going through that, but both my sister and I talked about how much we learned from that experience, even though it was a negative one.”
Adds the country singer, “The hardest part about going through that was my age. I remember everything so clearly. I remember all the good things as well, so I have a lot of great memories and my parents used to be very happy.
“But I also remember when it went really bad, really fast, and I almost wish I was too young to remember. All the bad memories are pretty fresh in my mind.”
In the touching tune, Pope addresses her mom’s difficulties as a single mother and her own limited contact with her estranged father – with whom she reunited during her time competing on NBC’s hit show.
“One of the things my dad and I decided when we started talking again was that we can’t hold grudges or live in the past, because there were a lot of things we both said and did that were basically just pride getting in the way of our relationship,” Pope says. “He takes full responsibility for not reaching out to me as much as maybe a dad should to his daughter. And I take full responsibility for maybe not calling my dad as much.”
When Pope’s mom heard the song, she cried, says her daughter, adding, “Whenever she hears my new songs, she gets all emotional. She told me that she felt guilty for anything I went through as a kid and she just hopes I’ve moved forward and wasn’t badly affected by it, which I wasn’t. My goal wasn’t to bash anyone or have it be a negative song. I just wanted people to see that you can come out on top and learn from this instead of letting it affect you in a negative way.”
Nowadays, “My parents are civil, but they don’t keep in touch or hang out or anything,” Pope says. “If they’re in the same room together and are around each other, they’re totally fine and act like adults.”
After getting through her parents’ divorce, Pope realized, “You have to be really, really confident in your decision to marry somebody. I don’t think my parents were stupid, but I do think maybe it was rushed. But if they hadn’t gotten married, my sister and I wouldn’t be here. I think everything happens for a reason. I’ve always believed that. I would never say I think divorce is wrong. After seeing what my parents went through, I would never want them to stay together just because they think it’s the right thing to do.”
The singer, who turns 24 on Wednesday, will celebrate her birthday by performing her current single, “Wasting All These Tears” on America’s Got Talent that night.