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When parents separate or divorce

It can be rough on the whole family when parents split up. You don’t have to go through it alone.

Girl sitting on train texting mum that she is staying at dad's house tonight

So, your parents have just told you they’re splitting up…

Being told that your parents are calling it quits can bring on a heap of different, and sometimes conflicting, emotions.

You might experience intense sadness and feel lowkey relived at the same time. It’s all normal and super valid.

Divorce and separation can bring up a lot of emotions

  • Grief and sadness – you’re experiencing the breakdown of your family, and lots of things will change. It’s ok to grieve and feel really sad at this time – try to let yourself feel your feels! 
  • Confusion and shock – maybe you’re thinking… ‘but everything seemed fine?’ Our parents' relationship is separate to us and even though family units are intertwined, a separation announcement can be shocking. 
  • Jealously and embarrassment – when your family is in a state of extreme stress it can hurt to see our friends’ parents together and fall into patterns of comparison and even FOMO for what could’ve been. Remember that everyone’s family looks different and even though we might think we know what someone is going through at home we often don’t know all the details.  
  • Anger and guilt – dealing with a family breakdown can bring up feelings of anger because it can feel really out of your control. You might also worry that the split is somehow your fault – trust us, it’s not.  
  • Anxiety and worry – thinking about the future of having split up parents can be overwhelming, and you might also worry about your future romantic relationships. Remember your parents' relationship doesn't shape what your future relationships look and feel like.

29% of you said you felt relieved when we asked about how you felt post-separation announcement…

It can be confusing to feel relieved when your parents split up but there’s lots of reasons for this.

Maybe stuff at home wasn’t all that great or maybe you’re happy that your parents will be able to move on to healthy and strong relationships. Feeling relieved is completely normal and doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to still feel sad, disappointed, and angry too.  

The majority of you (59%) felt a mixture of all the feels.  

Coping with the uncomfy feels

We all lead busy lives.

Between school, after school sport, and friends, it can be hard to find the time to cope with all the uncomfortable emotions that may come up. Luckily, some of these distractions can also double as coping strategies! 

  • Talk to your mates or a trustworthy adult about how you’re feeling. It can be tempting to bottle stuff up, but it will help to get things off your chest. We’re sure your mates will want to help in any way they can too.  
  • Stick to things that usually make you happy. Weekend soccer and afternoon dance classes part of your routine? Doing things that bring you joy and help you to feel a sense of normalcy can really help during uncertain times.  
  • Be open with your parents about how you’re feeling and whether you’d like to be involved in the next steps (living arrangement discussions etc). 

But what will the future look like?

On top of dealing with a bunch of intense emotions, conversations around the future can be difficult at this time.

Here are some things you might want to check in with your parents about (if/when you feel comfortable): 

  • Living arrangements 
  • What family time will look like 
  • Changes in routine 

Feeling stuck in the middle? Here are some reminders:

It’s tricky when you want to be there for your parents but are also going through a lot too.

Feeling like you must ‘grow up fast’ is a common feeling among young people dealing with separation. You might find yourself being the middleman between your parents or letting them vent to you about the other parent.  

Setting some boundaries can really help if this starts to become overwhelming. 

  • Constantly delivering messages between parents? Have an open conversation with your parents and let them know you don’t feel comfortable being the one to deliver the news to each parent. 
  • Finding yourself giving emotional support and feeling drained? Let your parent know that even though you love them and want to be there for them you don’t feel like you’re the best person for them to go to. Explain that it being a shoulder to cry on can make you feel uncomfortable and affect your relationship with them.  
  • Pushing down your own feelings to ‘keep the peace’? Be open with your parents about how the separation makes you feel (remember it’s also normal if your feelings evolve over time). Be transparent from the get-go and remind your parents that their decision has had an impact on you.  

Feeling alone? Here’s some advice from other young people who have gone through it.

It’s not all bad!

Divorce and separation can really suck, but the good news is that there’s some benefits you might not realise. Remember, everyone’s situation is different too…

  • You could get closer with your parents. Going through something big can often bring you closer together and having some one-on-one time with your parents could help you bond! 
  • You can develop resilience. When we asked young people for advice for going through a family breakdown, we were so impressed with your wisdom and resilience. Going through a rough situation can help us become more resilient in the long run.  
  • Less tension at home. Even though there are a lot of changes, it can sometimes be a relief to not have to deal with the tensions of your parents' relationship at home anymore.  

If you need to talk about what’s going on, Kids Helpline is here for you 24/7. 

Give us a call, start a Webchat anytime, for any reason.

This content was last reviewed 11/11/2023

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