Life is full of change and challenge and the past year has been more challenging than most of us could have anticipated. This has made many adults look deeply at their lives as well as their choices and reset some of their needs and plans. In the same way we change our interests, hobbies and the things we like to do, our relationships also change. While we all want to live in homes where both our parents are together and happy, this may not always be the case or the best thing for our parents or us, even if we can’t see it.

Parents always want the best for their children, no matter what. Sometimes this means they need to separate or divorce each other because they have changed and grown in ways that they don’t match each other as well as they did previously. They may be able to remain good friends, happier individuals and better parents to you apart than together. While this may be painful and difficult for you to adjust to, it is important for you to know that this decision is never about you or their love and commitment to you!

Parents at times just need some time apart to rethink and find ways to sort out their relationship, this is called a separation and it can be healthy and necessary step and help them build a stronger relationship after some time apart. However, there are times when this time apart makes parents realize they are not making each other and their children as happy as they could while they are together. This is a time when they may decide that divorce (permanent ending of the marriage) is the best option for everyone. 

When parents decide to separate or divorce, it is an upsetting situation for the whole family. You won’t all live together anymore, you have to divide your time between your parents and sometimes even have to change schools and/or sport clubs. This is all not your choice and it will definitely take some time to adjust to all these changes.

You might feel scared, sad, confused, worried, angry, lonely and relieved: all at the same time. That is normal. A new situation affects so many aspects of your life!

You might find that you:

Are more stressed and/or irritable.
Find it hard to keep up in school, not being able to concentrate or get lower grades.
Have a hard time sleeping.
Have a tough time relaxing and enjoying yourself.
Isolate yourself from others or social activities.

Even though the mentioned emotions and consequences are very understandable, it is not what you want for yourself. Luckily, there are things you can do that will help you deal with all these changes and emotions. Actions that can give you some control over the situation and will help you adjust to the new family situation.

  • Know that this was not your fault. Their decision has nothing to do with you or anything you did.
  • If you have questions, such as what will change, where you will live, ask you parents and have a discussion. The more information you have, the better you can prepare for what is coming.
  • Be honest and open about how you feel. Even when you feel like your parents are acting jealous or unfriendly towards you or each other. Your parents are going through a lot as well; but they are still there for you. Ask for help or attention when you need it!
  • Do fun and relaxing activities, like exercising or being creative. Let some stress and tension out by journaling, drawing or listening to your favorite music.
  • Practice This situation might take up most of your energy. But it is very important to also pay attention to all things that are going well, that you achieve or are grateful for. Try to think of at least one thing before going to bed. Maybe there are even positive aspects to find to this new situation? Having less tension and arguments between your parents, having two rooms to decorate, going on holidays twice?
  • Be kind to yourself and take care of yourself. Try to eat and sleep well, keep doing things you like.
  • Remember that you are not alone. A lot of young people have to deal with separation or divorce. Sharing experiences and feelings together can bring some relief and support. Maybe you can even come up with some good ideas in how to solve things you are struggling with!
  • Seek professional support when things get too overwhelming for you. Contact an adult you trust, like a teacher, school counselor, trainer or your doctor. They can support you in how to feel better again.

Some of your friends might be dealing with their parents separating. It can be hard to see how this affects your friend. Here are some things you might do to be there for them:

  • Be available to your friends, whether it is online, in person, or on the phone. Having fun together will give them some distraction. It can help take their mind off the situation, relax and remind them that not everything in their life will change.
  • Listen without distraction. You don’t need to have answers, advice or solutions, just show you are interested and be there for them.
  • Share some of the tips and tools that are mentioned above about taking care of yourself.
  • Encourage them to inform a trusted adult if they need more support. Tell them to contact a trusted family member, teacher, school counselor, sports coach, or a professional organization.