Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Rights and Responsibilities

You have the right to

  • feel the way you feel about your parents splitting up,
  • express your feelings,
  • ask questions about what’s going to happen and why,
  • love and be loved by both parents,
  • feel safe,
  • talk to someone if you need help,
  • not take sides,
  • not carry messages between your parents,
  • not hear your parents say bad things about each other and
  • not have adult worries.

It’s your responsibility to

  • express your feelings in a way that doesn't hurt other people or things,
  • speak up if your parents are asking you to do things that don't feel right and
  • ask for help if you need it.

It’s your parents' responsibility to

  • take care of you and keep you safe even though they live apart,
  • let you spend time with both parents and others who are important to you,
  • listen to what you say, even if they can't always do what you want them to,
  • answer your questions about money, where you’re going to live, and so on,
  • talk to each other with respect in front of you and
  • talk to each other about things that involve you. 

Q & R

Q:
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?
A:

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.

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

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.

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

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.