Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Why It's Happening

Sometimes parents split up when they’ve been fighting and have been unhappy for a long time. And sometimes it seems to happen suddenly, when nothing seemed to be wrong, and it's really hard to understand why they have to split up at all.

There are many reasons why parents decide to split up — as many reasons as there are couples. And with each couple, there might be one main reason, or a whole pile of reasons.

In any case, everyone has their own reasons. And whatever the reasons, it's never an easy decision. Parents usually try very hard to solve their problems before they split up.

Here are some common reasons why parents split-up:

  • They grew apart — Maybe they were both very busy and rarely saw each other, or a job or interest took them in different directions. But whatever the cause, one or both of them changed. The strong attraction they felt when they were first together was lost, or maybe they just can't agree on anything anymore. Sometimes parents don't see or acknowledge problems in their relationship until it's too late.
  • Another relationship — If a parent falls in love with someone else, that parent might want to leave in order to be with the other person. Or the other parent might feel so betrayed that he or she finds it impossible to stay together.
  • Hard times — Sometimes a relationship breaks down under the strain of family problems, like a severe illness, a parent losing a job, or a lack of money. If there were already problems in the relationship, hard times can be the last straw.
  • Alcoholism, drug abuse, or violence — Addiction to alcohol or drugs (or even to other things like gambling), as well as violent behaviour, can cause problems in a relationship and can ultimately end it.

You might have experienced some of the same things in friendships and relationships of your own.

If you're not sure what your parents' reasons are for splitting up, you can always ask them.

Your parents might be relieved that you’ve asked and give you a direct answer. On the other hand, they might want to keep their privacy. Or they might not be able to give you a clear answer because they're not all that clear about it themselves.

The worst thing that could happen when you ask your parents why they’re splitting up is that they tell you things you don't want or need to know. For example, one parent could say really hurtful things about the other parent. If that happens, tell the parent that it hurts you to hear this, and ask him or her to stop.

No matter what kind of answer your parents give you, the most important thing is that you are not the reason for your parents splitting up. It's not your fault!

Parents split up with each other because of problems in their relationship. They don't split up because of their kids.

Your parents are still your parents. They still love you, even if they don't love each other anymore.

Q & R

I'm feeling guilty about my parents splitting up. Was there something I did to cause it?

It's very common for teens to believe that they have somehow caused their parents to split up. But you’re not the reason for your parents splitting up. Parents split up because of problems in their relationship.

It's not your fault!

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.