Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

You are here

Behaviour Changes and Acting Out

Having feelings is never wrong. But how a person acts on them can have good or bad results. During a divorce or separation, children and teens may go back to more childish behaviours or act out. These are some possible behaviours:

Children Teens
  • can’t think of anything else
  • can’t sleep
  • have nightmares
  • get really mad at people for little things
  • wet the bed
  • skip school
  • party
  • drink
  • do drugs
  • break the law

Your teens need to know that the types of acting out listed above only cover up their feelings temporarily, but the feelings always come back. These behaviours add to the problems they’re already dealing with.

There are many healthy ways to deal with feelings. Children can talk about their feelings as often as they would like with parents, friends, brothers and sisters or relatives. Talking to a neutral person like a school counsellor can also help. Writing about feelings and experiences in a journal helps some people feel better. Exercise and creative activities can help. Crying also provides a good release for feelings. There’s nothing wrong with crying. And there’s nothing wrong with not crying either.

Avoid using food or other treats to make your children’s feelings go away. This won’t work in the long run, and it can also set up unhealthy ways of dealing with feelings. Do not try to buy your children’s loyalty out of your own insecurity.

Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help, especially if you or one of your children is feeling depressed, out of control, or extremely anxious. Other signs that help is needed include difficulty managing anger and any suspicion of suicide.

Children, teens, and adults should seek help if the strong emotions last for a long time or are getting in the way of normal activities. Teens who are depressed, having trouble managing anger, feeling extremely anxious, thinking about hurting themselves or escaping, or just feeling out of control, should get help.

Kids and teens can call Tel-Jeunes at 1-800-263-2266 toll-free from anywhere in Quebec or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 toll-free from anywhere in Canada. Post these numbers near your telephone. Make sure your teens know that they can use these numbers as well, not just younger children. Make sure your children and teens understand that these numbers are available any time they want to talk to someone. It doesn’t need to be an emergency. But if it is an emergency, they should call 911.

Coping Strategies for Children

Children need to know how to deal with separation or divorce. The Strategies section of the Teens Guide, and Tools in the Kids Guide, were developed with this in mind. They learn what to do if they feel caught in the middle of their parents' conflict, how and when to speak up, tips for coping with the separation or divorce and what to do if there is abuse in the home.