Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Dealing With It

Here are some tips for dealing with other situations you might be experiencing.

Breaking the News

Some teens find it hard to tell their friends and others that their parents are splitting up. Sometimes they worry about what others will think. Sometimes they think their friends will think they’re different now, when all that’s really changed is their family. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Take your time. You don't have to tell anyone until you feel ready.
  • Tell one friend at a time.
  • Choose a quiet, relaxed time, when you know you'll have a few minutes to talk without worrying about others listening, or having to rush off to class or another activity.

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

Having Two Homes

Living part of the time with one parent and part of the time with the other can be a little confusing at first, but it can also be new and exciting. The first thing you’ll have to do is get organized.

  • Use a calendar so you know where you’re going to be every day of the month. If you find that the schedule conflicts with some of your activities, talk to your parents to see how you can make it work for everyone.
  • Make a list of all the things you need to have with you at each home. Check the list before you leave to make sure you have everything.
  • Try to get two of the small things that you always need — like toothbrushes and hairbrushes — so you don't have to carry them back and forth.

Next, make the new home feel comfortable.

  • Move some of your things into your new space to make it feel like your own.
  • Ask what you can do to make the new space more comfortable for yourself.

If your parents have very different rules and lifestyles, you’ll have to do your best to get used to the differences. You might even enjoy the differences. But again, if you feel that your needs are not being met, say so. Maybe some things can be changed to help make you feel more comfortable.

Staying Connected

If one parent has moved far away, or you don't get to see one parent very often, you might miss him or her. Even if you live part of the time with each parent, it's normal to miss the one you're not with. There are lots of things you can do to feel connected. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Decide on regular times to talk on the phone.
  • Send e-mails and texts often.
  • Ask each parent for a special thing that reminds you of him or her, like a photo, and keep it with you.

Holidays and Other Celebrations

Special times like birthdays and the holidays can be hard at first. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to deal with special times. Maybe you can celebrate special occasions twice--once with each parent. Or maybe you can celebrate one holiday with one parent, and the next with the other parent. Or alternate yearly— for example, celebrate your birthday with one parent one year and with your other parent the next year.

If you feel sad about losing some of your family's traditions for celebrations, try creating new ones. Each year, try to do some new things that you can do again next year — and the year after that. Before long, you'll find yourself with lots of new traditions.

Parents Dating

As your parents begin to get on with their lives, they might start dating. It's normal for some parents who are newly single to enjoy their freedom and see lots of different people. You might feel jealous and want your parents all to yourself. Or you might feel betrayed, as though it's too soon after the break-up for them to be seeing someone new. Try to see it from your parents’ point of view. And try to figure out why it bothers you that your parents are dating.

Also, try not to judge your parents’ new friends or drive them away. Just as you weren't responsible for your parents' break-up, you’re also not responsible for their new relationships.

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.