Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Caught in the Middle

Do you feel caught in the middle of your parents' problems?

Sometimes parents use you in their battles, whether they know they‘re doing it or not. For example, one or both parents might do the following things:

  • ask you to carry messages
  • ask you to give them information about the other parent
  • ask you to keep secrets from the other parent
  • expect you to listen to him or her saying mean things about the other parent, or blaming the other parent for everything that’s happened
  • try to make you take sides, or choose one parent over the other

If you’re feeling caught in the middle you can try saying these things:

  • Tell your parents how you feel. They might not realize what they’re doing, and once they do, they might stop.
  • Say you would rather not carry messages or spy on the other parent. If parents want to tell each other something, they should do it themselves. If a parent wants information, he or she should simply ask the other parent.
  • Say you don't want to hear them complaining about each other because it hurts you.
  • Tell them they need to work out their problems themselves. It's not your job.
  • Tell them you love them both, and you won’t choose one over the other.
  • Don't get involved in your parents' arguments. If they are arguing in front of you, walk away.

If it's too hard for you to say things like this directly to your parents, try writing them in a letter.

It helps to talk to your parents about your feelings and be clear about your needs. It may be hard, but communicating with them will help you face the changes and challenges that lie ahead.

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.

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.

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.