Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Anxiety is a strong, uncomfortable feeling of fear. It is a normal emotional response to danger or uncertainty.

All the uncertainty that comes with change can make you feel anxious. So you may feel anxious when your parents split up, because there may be so many unknowns — like what is going to happen, where you are going to live, how you will cope with all the changes, and so on.

You might also feel like you have to take sides, or choose between one parent and the other, which could make you feel anxious.

In addition, you might be worried about your relationships in the future. You might think that because your parents have separated or divorced, the same thing will happen to you. But you can learn from your parents' mistakes. What happens in your own relationships will be up to you, not your parents!

If the anxiety is lasting a long time, or it is getting in the way of your ability to do the things you normally do, get help.

Q & A

Q:
What will my friends say when they find out?
A:

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. But separation and divorce are very common these days.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. You're still you, even though your family is changing.

Q:
What is the difference between separation and divorce?
A:

When two people have been living together and they decide not to live together anymore, they are separated. However, when married people separate, their marriage has not yet ended. They have to get a divorce to legally end a marriage. Common-law couples don't have to get a divorce, because there is no marriage to end.

Q:
I'm feeling guilty. Was there something I did to cause it?
A:

You are not the reason for your parents splitting up. Parents split up because of problems in their relationship.

It's not your fault!

Q:
I have so many questions. 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 is going to happen and why.

Q:
Who decides who I will live with?
A:

Ideally, your parents will make the decisions together about who you will live with and how that will work. Your opinion should be taken into account.

If they can't decide themselves, they might go to a mediator for help in reaching an agreement. Or they might have to go to court and have a judge make the decisions for them.