Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Why It's Happening

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Sometimes parents split up when they have been fighting and unhappy for a long time. Other times it seems to happen suddenly, when nothing seemed to be wrong. Then it can be hard to understand why they have to split up at all.

There are many reasons why parents decide to split up—as many reasons as there are couples. And with each couple, there might be one big reason or a lot of smaller reasons.

Everyone has their own reasons. Whatever those reasons are, splitting up is never an easy decision. Parents usually try very hard to solve their problems before they decide to split up.

Here are some common reasons why parents separate or divorce:

  • They grew apart: Maybe they were both very busy and rarely saw each other, a job or interest took them in a different direction, or one or both of them changed. Maybe the strong attraction they felt when they were first together has been lost, or they just can't agree on anything anymore. Sometimes parents don't notice problems in their relationship until it's too late.
  • Another relationship: A parent might fall in love with someone else and decide to leave and be with that other person. Or the other parent might feel so let down that it’s impossible for them to stay together anymore.
  • Hard times: Sometimes a relationship breaks down under the strain of problems like a severe illness in the family, a parent losing a job, or a lack of money. If there were already problems in the relationship, hard times can be the last straw.
  • Addiction or violence: Addiction (to alcohol, drugs, or even to something like gambling) or violent behavior can cause problems in a relationship. You might have had some of the same problems in friendships and relationships of your own.

If you're not sure what your parents’ reasons are for splitting up, you can always ask.

Your parents might be relieved that you asked and give you a direct answer, or they might want to keep it private. They might not be able to give you a clear answer because they're not all that clear about it.

When you ask your parents why they’re splitting up, they might tell you things that you don't need to know. For example, one parent could say really hurtful things about the other parent. If that happens, tell the parent that it hurts you to hear this, and ask him or her to stop.

No matter what kind of answer your parents give you, the most important thing is that you are not the reason that your parents split up. It's not your fault!

Your parents are still your parents. They still love you, even if they don't love each other anymore.

Remember: Parents split up with each other because of problems in their relationship. They don't split up with, or because of, their kids.

Q & A

Q:
Will I be able to spend time with both parents?
A:

In the vast majority of cases, children get to spend time with both parents. How much time you spend with each parent, and exactly how that will work, depends on your custody and access arrangements.

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:
I'm feeling guilty. Was there something I did to cause it?
A:

You are not the reason for your parents splitting up. Parents split up because of problems in their relationship.

It's not your fault!