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:
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 are feeling pressured to take sides, and you feel you are caught in the middle of your parents' problems, tell them.

Q:
My parents never married. Do they have to go through the same process that married parents do when they split up?
A:

Common-law parents — parents who chose to live together without getting married — don't have to get a divorce, because there is no marriage to end. But they do need to decide what will happen to their children and how they will divide their property.

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:
Can I do anything to get my parents back together?
A:

Most parents split up only after trying very hard to save their relationship. Some teens hope and believe that if they try to be on their very best behaviour, their parents will get back together.

However, this plan isn't likely to work, since their parents' decision to split up had nothing to do with them. Their decision to separate or divorce is usually final.