Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Anxiety is a strong, uncomfortable feeling of fear or dread. It’s a normal emotional response to danger or uncertainty.

Changes bring uncertainty and this can make you feel anxious. It’s normal to feel anxious when your parents split up because there might be so many unknowns — like what’s going to happen, where you’re going to live, how you’ll cope with all the changes, and so on.

You might also feel like you’re caught in the middle—that you have to take sides or choose between one parent and the other—and that could make you feel anxious.

Also, you might be worried about your relationships in the future. You might think that because your parents have split-up, the same thing will happen to you. But you can learn from your parents' mistakes. What happens in your own relationships will be up to you, not your parents!

If the anxiety is lasting a long time or is making it hard for you to do the things you normally do, get help.

Q & R

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.

Will I be able to spend time with both parents?

In most cases, children get to spend time with both parents. How much time you spend with each parent and exactly how that will work depends on your parents’ custody and visiting arrangements.

Remember: Parents divorce each other, not their children. Your parents are still your parents, and they still love 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.

Can I do anything to get my parents back together?

Most parents split up only after trying very hard to save their relationship. Their decision to split-up is usually final.

Some teens hope and believe that if they try to be on their very best behaviour, their parents will get back together. However, this plan isn't likely to work, since their parents' decision to split up had nothing to do with them.

Apart from suggesting that your parents see a marriage counsellor if they haven't already done so, the best thing that you can do is to begin to accept the situation so that you can get on with your life.

If my parents divorce, will the same thing happen to me?

Many teens whose parents split up feel anxious about their own relationships in the future. But just because your parents split up doesn't mean the same thing will happen to you. You can learn from their mistakes. What happens in your relationships will be up to you, not your parents!