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:
My parents are splitting up. Why?
A:

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

Parents usually try very hard to solve their problems before they take action. If you're not sure what your parents' reasons are for splitting up, you can always ask.

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 really feel like I need some help. Who should I ask?
A:

There are lots of people around you who can help. Tell your parents, teacher, school counsellor, family doctor or another adult you trust.

If you aren't getting the help you think you need, keep asking until you get it.

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:
If my parents divorce, will the same thing happen to me?
A:

Many teens whose parents split up feel anxious about their own relationships in the future. But just because your parents split up doesn't mean the same thing will happen to you. What happens in your relationships will be up to you, not your parents!