Separation, divorce, custody

Separation and divorce are very common - almost half of all marriages break up. But even if you know lots of people whose parents are divorced it's still upsetting if it happens to your family. If your parents are divorcing or have divorced you will probably feel:

You might feel these strong emotions right away or not until much later. Or you may find that your feelings come and go and may get worse depending upon what else is going on in your life. There are many things you can do to help make things go as easy as possible (like talking to your parents about your concerns or to other kids whose parents are divorced). And remember that if you need to talk to someone, you can always call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

Divorce causes so many changes in a family. Some of these changes can make you feel really sad. Here are some of the things you may feel sad about:

  • You may miss the times your family had together or the times your family won't have in the future (e.g. you probably won't have family holidays or celebrations together)
  • You may miss seeing both of your parents every day
  • You may miss your friends, neighbourhood, house or school if you have to move

Divorce can make you really angry. Here are just some of the reasons you may feel mad:

  • You may be mad at your parents for breaking up your family
  • You may be mad at your parents for not trying hard enough to save their marriage
  • You may be mad about having to choose which parent you live with (for more about this see our section on custody)

You might find that you are angrier with one parent than the other if you feel that parent is more to blame for the divorce. It's normal to feel angry and resentful. After all, you probably didn't ask for any of the big changes that will happen in your life as a result of the divorce.

 Divorce can make you feel worried for a lot of reasons. Here are just some of the things you may worry about:

  • How much your life is going to change
  • How you will choose which parent to live with
  • How you will cope with moving, starting a new school or making new friends
  • If your family will have enough money
  • That other people in your family (e.g. a brother or sister or your parents) are really upset

You may be confused about why your parents are breaking up. You may even want to ask them for an explanation. Some parents may tell you why they are divorcing, some parents may not want to tell you why and other parents may want to tell you things that you don't want to hear (such as mean things about your other parent). If one parent is saying hurtful things about the other, you may want to tell them how much it hurts you when they put your other parent down.

A lot of kids feel guilty because they think that they are to blame for their parents' divorce. You may find yourself thinking things like: "If only I didn't argue with them they would still be together!" Kids don't cause their parents to divorce. Parents divorce because of problems with their relationship. Try to accept, trust and believe your parents if they tell you that their break up is not your fault.

You may feel relieved if your parents are divorcing, especially if they fought all the time. Your parents may actually feel happier and get along better if they are living apart. Its normal to feel relieved even if you want your family to stay together. You probably just realize that sometimes a divorce can make everyone's lives more peaceful.

Things you can do

It's hard on your whole family if your parents break up. Your parents will probably make most of the big decisions about how your lives are going to change, but they may want your input. Try to speak with them about your worries and about how you can work together to make things as easy as possible. You may also want to:

  • Write (a journal, poetry, letters to your parents)
  • Do something artistic (paint, draw, sculpt)
  • Sing, dance, make music
  • Get active (play basketball, swim, run, bike - anything)
  • Talk to other kids whose parents have divorced
  • Talk to someone you trust (a teacher, school counsellor or another family member)

Although you will probably feel sad about your parents' divorce for a long time, it's possible to have happy family times again. As you start to get used to your new family life you may even find that you become closer to your parents. Many kids find that they develop a unique relationship with each of their parents rather than relating to them as a couple.

If your parents share custody you may enjoy setting up a room for yourself in each of your parents' homes. Many families develop new rituals around holidays that can be fun and different from what you are used to. You may even get to celebrate special occasions twice! Of course this doesn't take away the sadness of divorce but it does make it easier to cope with.

Remember that if you need to talk you can always call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

Last reviewed: September 2012 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team


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