A mother and daughter looking sad and hugging in a kitchen

Deciding to divorce or separate is tough, but it's only just the start. What will it really mean for you and your family? No one knows, but we can give you some good places to start.  

Divorce/separation ... Potato/Po-ta-toe

We use the words a lot, but divorce and separation do mean slightly different things. Divorce is when your marriage is legally over. Separation is when you’ve decided to end the relationship but, if you were married, the relationship isn’t legally over. If you were never married, breaking up could also be called a separation. Either way, you will probably need shared care arrangements for your kids. This article on co-parenting arrangements can step you through the process.

Will splitting up negatively affect your teen?

Divorce or separation can affect your teen in many ways. It can be a great opportunity for starting afresh by removing conflict from the household, allowing both parents relationships with the teenager to become stronger. However it’s important to be aware of some of the negative impacts so that you can spot them and take action to help.

  • It might make them feel angry, sad or withdrawn—getting in trouble at school or lashing out at home.
  • They might start to worry and be eager to please you—fussing around you and trying to make you happy.
  • Sometime they might keep worries from you to protect you—going from being chatty and open to just saying everything is ‘fine’ all the time.
  • If you’re coming from violence or trauma, it might bring issues around this to the surface.
  • If you’re moving house, they might struggle with the changes around friends and school.
  • It could create more conflict with your ex-partner while you’re working out parenting arrangements. Check out this video on dealing with family conflict.

Helping your teen while caring for yourself

Divorce and separation is tough on you as well as your teen. Taking care of yourself is really important so you can be fully there for your teen – remember, it’s important you put on your oxygen mask first! Get some tips in this video where other parents say what they do to take care of themselves.

Keep the lines of communication open, and listen carefully to what they have to say. Let them air their concerns, even if it’s hard for you to hear. If you know something is up but you’re not sure where to start, take this quiz on how to sort out what’s bothering your teen.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Reachout Forums and Parents Coaching are a great place to ask questions and come up with a plan.

So you're a co-parent now?

Being a co-parent is a whole new skill and might feel a little overwhelming along with everything else going on. Co-parenting is the new relationship you have with your ex-partner, where you still work together to parent your kids, even though you’re not a couple anymore. What that looks like is different for every family, so focus on what’s best for your family. Check out this article for tips on working out a co-parenting arrangement. Try to keep a good working relationship with your ex, even if you don’t like them, as that will benefit your kids in the long run.

Divorce or separation can be tough on parents and kids. But with the right support and planning, you can help your kids navigate through the maze and help them understand everybody will be better off in the long run with this change.

Have a crack at some things you can do right now.