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When two married people no longer want to be married to each other or live together, sometimes divorcing is the best choice. A lot of emotions can pop up when change happens to your family, but learning more about divorce may make it a little easier to deal with.

Why Do Parents Get Divorced?

Parents divorce for many reasons, like:

  • they keep fighting and feel they can’t live together anymore
  • the love they had when they married has changed
  • a parent falls in love with someone else
  • a parent has a serious problem like drinking, gambling, or abuse
  • they decide to live apart even though nothing bad happened

No matter why your parents split up, the issues are between them. It’s not because of something you did or didn’t do. Some people think that if they had prevented arguments by doing more around the house, behaving better, or getting higher grades, the divorce wouldn’t have happened. It’s normal to feel like this and worry about what happened, but it’s not your fault and you’re not to blame.

What Can I Expect to Feel if My Parents Divorce?

If your parents are divorcing, you may have many feelings. Your emotions can change a lot too. You may feel stressed out, angry, frustrated, or sad. You might feel protective of one parent or blame one for the situation. You may feel abandoned, afraid, worried, or guilty. You also may feel relieved, especially if there’s been a lot of tension or fighting at home. These feelings are normal and very common.

How Could Divorce Change Things?

Depending on what happens in your family, you might have to adjust to many changes. These could include things like moving, changing schools, or spending time with each parent separately. You might also have to deal with your parents being unkind to each other if they’re mad about things that happened before or during the divorce.

There can be good changes too. Many people find their parents are actually happier after the divorce. Or they may develop new and better ways of relating to both parents when they have one-on-one time with them.

How Can I Deal With My Parents’ Divorce?

When parents decide to split up, it’s a lot to handle, but these tips might help you deal with things:

Speak up. It can be confusing if your parents don’t want to be together anymore, so ask them any questions you have. Try to pick a time when everyone’s calm. If it’s hard getting the words out, write them a letter.

If your parents fight or are mean to each other, tell them that it upsets you. They can try to act better when they’re around you or you can leave the room. Your feelings are important.

Know that you don’t have to “take sides.” Some parents try to get their kids to choose one parent over the other. Let your parents know if you want to hang out with and talk with both of them — without the other one acting jealous, hurt, or mad.

Talk with other people. Tell a trusted adult how you’re feeling. This can be a teacher, therapist, school counselor, or religious leader (like a minister or rabbi). Also talk with your friends. If their parents got divorced, they can give you advice. Many communities and schools have support groups for people whose parents have divorced. It can really help to talk with other people your age who are going through similar experiences.

Focus on school and after-school activities. Keep up with your schoolwork and any clubs or sports you’re a part of. When things are changing at home, it can help to keep this kind of stuff the same.

Eat healthy and get enough sleep. If you feel sad, you may want to eat junk food and stay up late doing things like watching videos. But when you eat healthy foods and get plenty of rest, your body will feel better. You’ll also be able to handle tough moments and emotions more easily.

Find ways to ease stress. Lots of things can help you feel better if you’re worried. Try some of these ideas:

  • Get moving. You can do jumping jacks, run, dance, or play a sport.
  • Go outside. To get some fresh air and exercise, go for a walk or bike ride.
  • Do yoga. The poses help you stretch, move, and relax.
  • Practice breathing exercises. Slow, calm, deep breathing can help you manage stress, relieve anxiety and depression, and get a good night's sleep.
  • Try mindfulness. Training your brain to pay more attention to things like eating and walking can help you feel calmer.
  • Do something you enjoy. Listen to music, watch a funny show, create some art, write in a journal, or play with a pet. You can also hang out with someone who might brighten your mood or help you laugh.

Can I Get My Parents Back Together?

Getting your parents back together isn’t up to you. Plenty of people wish for it and even try things they think might work. Following the rules at home and doing well at school might make your parents happy, but it doesn't mean they'll forget about divorcing. The opposite is also true. Getting in trouble so your parents will have to talk about rule-breaking isn’t going to make them get together again.

What if I Can’t Stop Feeling Upset?

If you find that you can't seem to feel better about your parents' divorce, or your worries affect your daily life, tell a trusted adult who can connect you to a therapist. Therapists have a lot of experience with divorced families, so they can listen and teach you ways to cope.

Divorce can be challenging, but you might find some positives you don’t expect. Some people learn compassion and caring skills when a younger brother or sister needs their support and care. Siblings who are closer in age may form tighter bonds, learning to count on each other more. Dealing well with divorce also can make you stronger and more mature. Asking for support along the way and coping in healthy ways can help you get through it.

Medically reviewed by: Maia Noeder, PhD
Date reviewed: June 2023