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:
My parents never married. Do they have to go through the same process that married parents do when they split up?
A:

Common-law parents — parents who chose to live together without getting married — don't have to get a divorce, because there is no marriage to end. But they do need to decide what will happen to their children and how they will divide their property.

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:
Can I do anything to get my parents back together?
A:

Most parents split up only after trying very hard to save their relationship. Some teens hope and believe that if they try to be on their very best behaviour, their parents will get back together.

However, this plan isn't likely to work, since their parents' decision to split up had nothing to do with them. Their decision to separate or divorce is usually final.

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.