Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Dealing With It

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Here are some tips for dealing with other situations you may be experiencing.

Breaking the news

Some teens find it hard to tell people that their parents are splitting up. Sometimes they worry about what others will think, or that their friends will think they’re different now. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take your time. You don't have to tell anyone until you feel ready.
  • Tell one friend at a time.
  • Choose a quiet, relaxed time when you know you'll have time to talk. You want to give the other person time to listen, rather than having to rush off to class or practice.

Remember: Good friends will be glad you've told them. They will know that you're still you, even though your family is changing.

Having two homes

Living partly with one parent and partly with the other can be confusing at first, but it can also be new and exciting. The first thing you’ll have to do is to get organized.

  • Use a calendar so you know where you’re going to be every day of the month. If the schedule conflicts with your activities, talk to your parents to see how you can make the schedule work for everyone.
  • Make a list of the things you need to have with you at each home. Before you leave, check the list to make sure you have what you need.
  • Try to get two of the small things that you always need, like toothbrushes and hairbrushes, so you don't have to carry them back and forth.

Next, make the new home feel comfortable.

  • Ask the parent who has moved into a new home what you can do to make a space for yourself.
  • Move some of your things into your new space to help make it feel like your own.

If your parents have very different rules and lifestyles, you’ll probably have to do your best to get used to the differences. You might even come to enjoy them! But if you feel your needs aren’t being met, say so. Maybe some things can be changed to help make you feel more comfortable.

Staying connected

If one parent has moved far away or you don't get to see one parent very often, you might miss them. Even if you live part of the time with each parent, it's normal to miss the one you're not with. There are lots of things you can do to feel connected. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Decide on regular times to talk on the phone.
  • Send e-mails or texts often, even every day. You could even write real letters!
  • Meet online.
  • Ask your parents for a special thing that reminds you of them, like a photo, and keep it with you.

Holidays and other celebrations

Special times like birthdays and holidays can be hard at first. Here are some things you might want to try:

  • Celebrate twice—once with each parent.
  • Have one holiday with one parent and the next with the other parent.
  • Switch off each year. For example, have your birthday with one parent one year and with your other parent the next year.

If you feel sad about losing some of your family's traditions, try creating new ones. Each year, try to do new things that you can do again next year and the year after that. Before long, you'll find yourself with a wealth of new traditions.

Parents dating

Your parents might start dating as they begin to get on with their lives. It's normal for some parents who are newly single to enjoy their freedom and see lots of different people. You might feel jealous and want your parent all to yourself. You might feel betrayed, as though it's too soon for him or her to be seeing someone new.

Try not to judge your parents' new friends. And definitely don't try to drive people away. Try to see it from your parent's point of view, and try to figure out why his or her dating bothers you.

Just as you weren't responsible for your parents' splitting up, you aren't responsible for their new relationships.

Q & A

Q:
I have so many questions. How much can I ask my parents?
A:

If there are things you need to know, ask. You have a right to ask questions about what is going to happen and why.

Q:
What will my friends say when they find out?
A:

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. But separation and divorce are very common these days.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. You're still you, even though your family is changing.

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.