Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Some teens feel embarrassed when their parents split up.

They might be embarrassed about the intensity of their feelings, like it's not "cool" to be upset. But the feelings are natural, and the best thing to do is to accept them and do what you can to feel better.

Teens might also be worried about what other people will think. But separation and divorce are very common these days. In Canada, between 25% and 33% of marriages end in divorce. What that means is that many people have been through it themselves, and most people probably know someone who has.

See Breaking the news for some tips on telling your friends.

Q & A

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:
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:
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.

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!

Q:
I'm feeling really upset and confused about my parents splitting up. Is this normal?
A:

It's natural — and entirely normal — to experience some intense emotions. You will feel better over time. There are lots of ways to help yourself feel better, and people who can help you if you need it.