Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Abuse at Home

Is there abuse or violence in your home? If so, there are some important things you need to know.

There are different kinds of abuse. Abuse is using pain, fear or humiliation to get your way. Abuse can be:

  • Physical — inflicting pain by pushing, restraining, pinching, shaking, slapping, punching, choking, and so on
  • Emotional or psychological — name-calling, making threats, putting people down, humiliating and criticizing
  • Sexual — inappropriate or unwanted advances, touching for a sexual purpose, ,pressuring a person to do sexual things

There is no excuse for abuse. Abuse has no place in a healthy relationship. Period. It's OK to have strong feelings, but it's not OK to express them by hurting others. No one has a right to abuse another person. And no one deserves to be abused. Ever.

You are not to blame.

If there is violence in your home, whether against a parent, one of your siblings, or you, you are not to blame. People who are abusive or violent are responsible for their actions.

You are not alone. Abuse is an ugly secret in many homes. Lots of other children and teens experience abuse at home. More importantly, there is help for these people:

  • people who have been victims of abuse
  • people who have seen someone else being abused
  • people who are abusers

If there is abuse or violence in your home, get help.

If you or someone in your family is the victim of abuse or violence, get help right away! You may want to protect your family by not breaking a family secret, but it’s very important that you get help.

If you or someone else in your family is in immediate DANGER, you can take these steps:

  • Call 9-1-1 (If you can, go to another room or to a neighbour's place to call).
  • Don't get in the middle or try to protect the person who is being hurt.
  • Stay away, and find a safe place in the house or at a neighbour's.

If you aren't feeling safe at home, these are things you can do:

  • Tell a teacher or school counsellor.
  • Talk to an adult you can trust, like the parent of a close friend.
  • Contact the police or a social worker.
  • In Quebec, call the Kids Help Phone, at 1-800-668-6868 or Tel-Jeunes at 1-800-263-2266 (the call is free and you don't need to dial an area code). The websites of these organizations tells you how you can text them, send emails to them or chat with a counsellor.

It's important to find a supportive adult who can help, not just a friend. While it's good to have friends who will listen to you and support you, they might not know what to do to get help.

Growing up with abuse doesn't mean that you will continue the cycle. If you’re worried about having the same patterns of abuse and violence in your own relationships as a teen or when you become an adult, there is good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. Children who grow up in families where there is abuse learn from it, and can carry what they've learned into future relationships. They can learn that in order to get their way, they have to use force or intimidation — and can become abusers. Or their self-esteem is so low that they feel they don't deserve better — and they can become victims.

Now here's the good news: you have a choice. It is possible to unlearn the behaviour you have learned from your family. It is also possible to learn from the challenges that you experience.

Here's what you can do to break the cycle:

  • Find out about the differences between healthy and abusive relationships.
  • Seek counselling. A counsellor can help you deal with your own feelings about what you’ve seen and experienced. A counsellor can also help you develop healthy ways to deal with your anger.
  • Feel better about who you are. Remember: The violence you experienced or saw was not your fault. A counsellor can also help you improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Wondering how to find a counsellor? Talk to your school counsellor, your family doctor or another adult you trust. Ask about programs in your community that can help. Most communities have services for victims of abuse and for abusers.


Healthy and Abusive Relationships

In a healthy relationship, the partners behave in these ways:

  • They listen to each other.
  • They consider each other's thoughts and feelings.
  • They respect, trust, and support each other.
  • They recognize each other's strengths and achievements.
  • They respect each other's culture.
  • They decide together if and when to have sex.
  • They feel safe with each other, when alone and with others.
  • They enjoy spending time with each other, when alone and with others.
  • They encourage each other to spend time with friends and family when they want to.

In an abusive relationship, people might behave in these ways:

  • Ignore the other person's feelings and wishes.
  • Ignore or pretend not to hear the other person.
  • Call the other person names.
  • Put the other person down about the way he or she dresses, talks, walks, dances and so on.
  • Get jealous when the other person is around guys or girls.
  • Be suspicious about the other person's activities all the time.
  • Control the other person with threats.
  • Control how much time the other person spends with friends and family.
  • Embarrass or tease the other person in a mean way.
  • Play mean tricks on the other person.
  • Tell the other person's secrets.
  • Act friendlier when alone with the other person than when friends are around.
  • Sulk when the other person doesn't do what they want.
  • Threaten suicide.
  • Encourage or pressure the other person to do things that make him or her feel uncomfortable.
  • Show anger and use threats or violence to get their own way.
  • Refuse to accept the other person's limits about sexual activity.
  • Push the other person around, or hit him or her.
  • Take or destroy the other person's possessions.
  • Hurt or threaten to hurt the other person's pet.

Do you recognize yourself as doing any of these things to another person? Or have any of these things been done to you? If so, you may be in an abusive relationship.

Whether you are the person abusing another or the person being abused, get help.

Talk to a school counsellor, family doctor or another adult you trust. Ask him or her to help you find a counsellor or community program that can help.


Q & R

I have so many questions about why this has happened and what is’s going to happen in the future. How much can I ask my parents?

If there are things you need to know, ask.

You have a right to ask questions about what’s going to happen and why. Although you need to respect your parents' right to privacy, they have a responsibility to answer your questions as best they can about things that directly affect you.

Do I have to take sides, or choose one parent over the other?

No, you don't. You have the right to love and be loved by both parents.

If you’re feeling pressured to take sides and feel caught in the middle of your parents' problems, tell them. They might be so caught up in their own problems that they don't even know they are doing it, and once they do, they might stop.

What will my friends say when they find out about my parents splitting up?

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. Some feel embarrassed about what is happening.

Parents splitting-up are very common these days. In Canada, between a quarter and a third of marriages end in divorce. That means that many people have been through it themselves, and most probably know someone who has.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. They'll know that you're still you, even though your family is changing.