Nothing prepares you for your parents' breakup. Even if you have heard them rowing or you have got used to them ignoring each other, this shock can knock you off your feet. They may have planned this for some time or it could be the decision of just one of your parents. You may feel numb, totally bewildered or, on the other hand, this could be a relief if the marriage had been openly very unhappy and you were suffering yourself. This is not your fault. You did not cause this and you cannot mend it. The shock will pass.
Remember to tell your parents how you feel
Sometimes your parents believe that you already knew that things were this bad but usually they are wrong. No-one really understands what goes on in a marriage, except the couple involved. Maybe they have just grown apart, become different people from when they were younger. Perhaps one of them has another partner. Whatever the reasons they give, one or both have been unhappy. This does not mean that they love you less. This is a difficult time for everyone. Try to communicate. Tell them you love them and need them. Remember that you are in shock, try not to say too much that you will regret later. Try not to take sides. This is not your job. Be gentle on yourself.
Anger is important as this lets you know that you have accepted the situation but you must not allow your anger to get out of control. Things done in anger are always regretted. Try not to blame your parents. They are struggling too. Let them know how you feel but try to cool down. Look at the big picture. The marriage has failed but they are still your parents; your aim is to keep talking. You are still family.
Try getting some exercise
As well as excercising, you could play loud music when it won't annoy anyone else and hang out with your friends. But don't break the house rules. Try to keep the peace. If you are at school or college, have a word with your teacher. You should find her easy to talk to. Although it won't really matter to you now, many teenagers have experienced the same things and have got through. Your teacher should be able to help you. At least you can have some consideration regarding your course work if you get into difficulties.
This is painful, isn't it?
Yes. Feel the pain. It is a necessary part in the healing process. It may feel like it will never get better, but it will. Feeling the pain shows you that something very important is happening to you. Although you may have said in anger that you don't really care what is happening to your family, you really do. If you have blamed one parent and fallen out with him or her, try to apologise. Gradually, the pain will decrease and you will start to have new routines. You will be able to speak to both parents. Remember that they are experiencing these feelings too but remind them how you are hurting. Do not suffer in silence. Silence could be mistaken for coping. Reach out to your parents or another adult. It will get better and you are not alone.
I hate you
Yes, we have all said it but we don't really mean it. Your parents will forgive you. It is natural to feel like this sometimes but it is not healthy to get stuck with this feeling. Have you been dragged into the middle of this dispute? Does one parent need you for emotional support? Does your hating one parent help the other feel better? This is not your place. This is not your problem. You cannot solve it. It is up to them. (Have they seen this site? Perhaps you could show them it or tell a relative about it.
There are many adult helplines and agencies where they can get help to move on.)
You are free to love both parents and should not take sides
Tell them this. Make it clear. This is for adults only and the concerned adults should look for help and support from other adults. Speak to a relative or someone who could speak to your parents if you are not able to do this yourself.
I feel like someone has died
Yes, this is grief and may be normal. You may be mourning how the family used to be and how you used to feel. You could be tearful, feeling empty and tired all the time. You may be troubled by bad dreams and have problems concentrating. Everyone feels down sometimes and the separation of your parents could make you feel very low.
So, don't panic. But you must reach out and talk to your parents or another adult. Don't withdraw and bottle up your feelings. Remember, there are many people you can talk to. Maybe you are all feeling very sad. This could be a time for talking in the family, for re-establishing contact if this has been broken. These feelings will pass but it is very important that they do not last too long and begin to interfere with your daily living routines.
But I think I'm depressed
People react to things in different ways. You may be feeling that no-one understands you. You are lonely and feeling stressed out. Maybe you are feeling lazy and have lost interest in a favourite hobby or you are having trouble sleeping. You could be eating too little or too much and feel that life is not worth living. You don't want to go out anymore? Feel that your friends don't want to be with you? You are wrong. These are probably signs that you are feeling quite low. For most people, these feelings come and go but this can be difficult for you, especially if you have a parent who is also feeling quite low. If these feelings go on for a long time and stop you from getting on with your everyday life, you are probably depressed and need some help.
The best thing to do is talk to someone you can trust. You could make an appointment with your doctor or phone one of the helplines we have already discussed.
The 24/7 lines are:
It is important that you find ways of coping but don't be afraid. If you speak up and help yourself, these feelings will come to an end, even though you can't really imagine this now.
You could also try some sport, hang out with friends, play some favourite music or watch a video. Writing a diary is also a good way to help you understand how you are feeling and how your feelings change. For more information, you can also connect to www.youngminds.org.uk and download their booklet, 'Do you ever feel depressed?' They have loads of info and depression happens to many people.
Will I ever feel the same again?
My parents are acting like teenagers!
Yes. When your parents split up, you think that nothing will ever be the same again. Things will take time to settle down. You will get over this. Your parents will too. Adults make mistakes. It may seem that they are behaving more like teenagers than you are.
This is not unusual as they each become single again and wonder who on earth they are. If they have been together a long time, it may be difficult to know how to meet new partners or how to act. Your father could start to dress in a younger way and even have much younger girlfriends. The same thing could happen to your mum or she could withdraw and concentrate on the family or even feel a bit low. Most adults need adult company. This is natural. You may be trying to bridge the gap but you will never succeed. They could go through different stages of behaviour. This is temporary and do not worry. All things will readjust. You have to remember that most parents have the knack of embarrassing their children at some time. Newly single parents seem to be better at it.
Can I sort things out for my parents?
No. It is not up to you to try to put things right. Time is a healer. Corny, but true. Forgiveness is important. If you can learn to forgive them, then you will feel better and be able to heal and move on. They did not set out to make you unhappy and they will always be your parents. Try to think of the positive; you may become closer to your parents, you may learn a lot as you have to become a little more independent and you may meet new people who turn out to be good friends. Try to think of this if you meet their new friends - give them a chance. Above all, you can look forward to your own future and your own relationships. Compassion is a great asset.