Your parents may have been together for a long or a short time, there might be another person involved, or they may have grown apart.
No matter what happened, it’s important to remember the separation is not because of you or your siblings - you are not to blame.
Your parents separating can be a confusing and stressful time, but it’s important to know, that during this tough time, there are things you can do and people you can turn to for support.
What it might feel like for you
You might feel a variety of emotions about your parents’ separating. This can include feeling overwhelmed, angry, hurt, loss, grief or you might experience a sense of betrayal. If your parents’ relationship had a difficult impact on your home life, you might also experience relief that they are separating. It’s totally normal to feel a range of emotions.
You might also be worried about one or both of your parents if they seem upset or angry about the separation. It is not your responsibility to look after them and it is OK to let them know your worries.
With time and support, the intensity of feelings will lessen in most young people and they will adapt to the situation.
Sometimes though, we might need extra support to help us adapt. You might find you experience some of these:
mood and behaviour changes such as getting angry or upset easily
increased arguments with family or friends, at home or in school
withdrawing from family, school or friends
changes to eating patterns like over-eating or loss of appetite
avoiding social situations or things you normally enjoy
changes to your normal sleeping patters
using alcohol and other drugs
Lots of these are normal during times of big changes, but if they last for a period of time, you are experiencing a number of them, or you’re worried about how they’re affecting you, it’s a good idea to get some extra support.
How can you support yourself
Having your parents separate may lead to changes in your living situation and day-to-day life that you aren’t ready for. Coping with big changes can feel stressful, but there are things you can do to support yourself.
Talk to your parents
It can be a good idea to talk with your parents about your concerns. Find a time when everyone is calm and let them know how you are feeling. You might have lots of questions for them like who you’re going to live with or how it might impact your routine and social life, as well as any other changes you are concerned about.
Separations can be stressful for everyone, and you might be worried about how your concerns will impact your parents. But it’s important to start having these discussions so your parents know what’s troubling you. Talking about things can help them feel less overwhelming.
Your parents might not know the answers yet, but having open, honest conversations with them will let them know you would like to be included in the discussions about things that will affect you.
It’s better to talk about your concerns than have them build up. There might be solutions you can come up with together.
eheadspace Group Chat My parents have separated
Separation can leave the family feeling upset, confused or shocked. Worries can come up like: living arrangements, new step parents or feeling like the situation was your fault. It can be a confusing and difficult time and you may not know what to do or who to turn to for advice and support.
Reach out to others
It can be helpful to reach out to others for support. Some options that might work for you:
- a close friend may be able to listen and be there for you
- your family members or elders might be able to provide guidance and support
- your school counsellor can help you during a tough period of change, particularly with keeping your studies on track
If you feel overwhelmed and want to speak to a health professional about your parents’ separation, you can contact a free and confidential service such as a headspace centre, eheadspace (free online and phone support) or Kids Helpline.
Look after yourself
Looking after your mental health and wellbeing helps you cope better during tough times. This includes staying active, doing things you enjoy, eating and sleeping well, connecting with friends and limiting the use of alcohol and other drugs. Discover more tips for a healthy headspace.
Be kind to yourself as you adapt to change in your life – it may take some time to fully adjust.
Other useful websites
Youth Law Australia - this website discusses lots of things about separation. You can also get free and confidential advice.
The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.
Last reviewed 7 September 2021