When your parents split up, it can be really difficult. Sometimes parents break up after long periods of fighting and unhappiness. Sometimes it happens suddenly, which makes it hard to understand why there should be change at all.
As family relationships change because of your parents breaking up, there may be a lot of adjusting to do. Everyone affected will have their own thoughts and feelings about what’s happening. People may feel anything from being upset to relief.
Understanding parental separation
It’s not uncommon to feel angry with the person(s) who decided the family can no longer live together.
You may even feel like you’re alone and frustrated, not being sure what is going to happen next. Changes in family relationships may cause parents to become distracted.
They may be arguing and fighting more often, which can interfere with their time with you.
It can be especially difficult if you have to hear one parent complain or argue about the other.
However, whatever is happening between your parents does not change the way they feel about you.
Family break up
Often when parents break up, this means moving back and forth between your parents.
Having to spread your time, friends, clothes and other things between two places may be hard.
You may just want to stay in one place with friends or in the space you are used to.
Things to keep in mind
It’s not your fault - You may feel it’s your fault that your parents are breaking up. You might tell yourself, “if only I had done what my parents asked me and didn’t cause those arguments…”
Remember, the reasons for your parent’s break up are always about problems between them. It has nothing to do with anything you might have done.
It’s OK to be upset - If you’re upset about your parents separating, it’s OK! Sometimes parents may try to make you take sides, and you feel split because you love both of them.
You have every right to be mad and upset if you’re made to pick between a parent, or pick which place you’d like to live once a parent moves out.
You may feel sad that some of the things you did as a family do not happen anymore. Just remember, no feeling you experience is ever wrong.
Keep doing the same things you did before - Sometimes during a separation, parents may be so caught up in their own changes it can feel like your own life is on hold.
You might feel like you need to change what you like to do, try to cheer up your parents, or that you have to fix their relationship to try to get them back together.
It’s not your job to fix your parents’ relationship or try to mend any parental problems. Your job is to take care of yourself during this hard time.
Your parents may be sad or angry about the situation as well, but you can still have a meaningful relationship with both of them.
When all of these changes at home are happening, keep things, such as school activities and friends, the same.
Tips on how to deal with parent separation
Talk to your parents - If you’re having a hard time dealing with the arguing, or even want to just tell them how you feel, talking to your parents can help.
They may not realise that you know about all their arguments, or that they are arguing so frequently in front of you.
They may also not realise how hard it is on you. This can be a good time to get out some of your feelings.
Listening to their responses may also help you understand why the split is happening, and let you know that they do still love you.
Also, if you have a preference to live in one area, or with one of your parents let them know and why.
Surround yourself with friends - If your parents are arguing a lot, it’s easy to want to just hide up in your room alone. Being around other friends can help cheer you up.
Keeping to yourself too much, can make depression and stress more likely to occur. Friends can lend an ear, and give you a chance to vent. They can also serve as a good distraction when you need to think about something other than your parents’ divorce.
Make a plan - If you’re involved at activities in school and/or sports, you may want your parents to come to these special events like plays, concerts, games, etc.
Your parents may feel awkward about attending if the other parent is going to be there. Talk to them about how important it is to you for them both to attend.
Also, you may worry about future plans that involve money. Separations are expensive, with legal fees and the cost for each parent to live on their own now.
This may mean less money towards school, clothes. university, new sports equipment, or upcoming trips.
Don’t worry about adding extra stress to your family’s situation by asking them about it. This needs to be worked out for all of you.
However, do pick a good time talk about these plans. Express your concerns, you do have a right to know what to expect in the future.
Find out what works for you - Make sure you have an outlet to express your feelings like anger or sadness. Whether it be hanging out with friends, talking to a therapist, writing in a journal, or playing music. Find something!
Pay attention to what helps you feel better and what doesn’t help.
If something isn’t helping you feel better, try something else.