Coping With Parent’s Divorce

2011/07/05 in Relationships

Separation or divorce can be a time of great upheaval for all the members of a family. This tape will discuss some of the typical feelings and behaviors that occur in families when separation or divorce has occurred or is being considered. We will also give you some suggestions about how you can cope with this situation.


Separation and divorce is a time when everyone in the family, especially you, feels uncertain and unsure of what to expect. You may feel you have no control over what will happen and may be really worried about how this change will affect you. You may have questions like:

Where will I live? Who will I live with? What about school and my friends? What will happen to our standard of living? Will I still be able to go on to school after high school? If any of all of these issues are of concern to you, it is important that you discuss each of them with one or both of your parents. It’s very possible that your parents will not know the answers to all of your questions but encourage them to share what they think about these matters. If they have very little information it’s important to remember that the effects of a divorce on you are probably of great concern to your parents. Therefore, keep asking questions and encourage your parents to talk with you about what is going on.

Sometimes the separation and divorce occur for fairly obvious reasons such as alcoholism, physical, mental or sexual abuse, inability to hold a job, romantic involvement with another person, being very irresponsible or lying. However, many times the reasons for separation and divorce are much less obvious. These reasons may include any or a combination of the following – excessive jealousy, possessiveness which may result in one spouse feeling smothered or stifled, strong differences in values in areas such as religion, sexuality, child rearing, money and sex roles. Most of the time, separation and divorce occur because of a combination of factors and the love that was once present has been slowly eroded over a period of time. If understanding what has caused this situation in your family is important to you, again, discuss this with your parents.

In addition to needing information, it’ll help to know what emotions you may be feeling for a while. It’s very likely you’ll feel guilty, angry, scared, jittery or depressed at one time or another.

You may even believe your behavior caused your parent’s break up, and, consequently, you’ll experience a lot of guilt about this. Although some parents disagree a great deal over their children, this conflict is rarely a cause for the break up. It’s usually a symptom of a much more basic problem like the inability to communicate or major value differences. Remember, you are not the cause for this divorce. Divorce is your parents’ responsibility.

You will probably experience a great deal of anger at some time during the first year of a separation or divorce. This anger may be felt towards one or both of your parents, at the world in general. or even God! It’s important to find some appropriate ways to handle this anger. You also will probably feel down or depressed at certain times.

Another difficult feeling to deal with is anxiety and nervousness. These feelings may be related to uncertainty about the future. Talking to your parents about these concerns may help.

It’s important to remember that your parents will probably also be experiencing these same feelings we have just discussed guilt, depression, anger, and anxiety. They may be feeling overwhelmed, scared, and indecisive about whether they really want this separation or divorce. In fact, your parents may be so upset they may not be able to help you right now by listening to your feelings and uncertainties. If that’s the case, you still need someone to talk to. Perhaps an understanding relative, teacher or counselor will be able to help you. You may even see if there’s a support group for teenagers whose parents have divorced or separated. Sometimes, talking is all you can do, but it will help.

We’ve talked about some of the reasons why people divorce and separate. We’ve also discussed some of the typical behaviors and feelings you may have if your parents decide to end their marriage. Remember, all members of your family are experiencing many of the same feelings; but in time you will adjust to this change in your life. Thank you.


For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.