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Divorce and separation

How divorce and separation affects young people 

The separation and divorce of parents and carers is a common situation that many young people experience.

The impacts that divorce or separation may have on young people can  be split into two categories: practical and emotional.

Practically young people will be affected by:

  • Living apart from one parent or carer and possibly only seeing one half of their family.
  • Living with a new family (when parents or carers find new partners).
  • Possibly leaving an area that they have lived and, more importantly, leaving friends.
  • Possibly having to leave a school that they have been attending and to get used to a new school.
  • Possibly finding that the household income is reduced. They may have to get used to doing without what they are used to having.
  • Possible change of surname/identity.

Emotionally young people are affected by:

  • A sense of loss: the loss of a parent or carer, loss of a home, loss of a whole way of life.
  • Anger: angry at one or both parents or carers because of what has happened.
  • Worry that they may be left alone. One parent or carer has left; will the other parent or carer do this too?
  • Guilt: concerned that what has happened could in some way have been caused by them.
  • A feeling of rejection because of one parent or carer no longer being in their life.
  • Confusion and upset, being asked to make a choice between parents or carers and take a side.
  • Insecurity and not being sure what will happen in the future.

Mental health

Unfortunately, with having to deal with such emotional upset and new practical arrangements, there'll can be differences in how young people will be able to deal with the change.

In some cases, the pressure that the young person is under may mean that they're not able to deal with it as well as others, and need support to prevent it affecting their mental health.

Care should be taken to monitor how young people are dealing with the situation, so that any practical support or emotional support can be identified. Take a look at our mental health guidance.

Help and support 

To try and support young people through a separation/divorce situation, it's important that parents, carers and other adults explain that the situation has not been caused in any way by the young person.

Separation and divorce is clearly the result of a breakdown in the relationship between the parents or carers.

Although the parental relationship has broken down, young people should be assured that both parents or carers still love them and that they'll continue to care for them.

In the same way that adults will need an opportunity to talk about what has happened and how they are feeling, young people will also need this to try and allow them to deal with the situation and then come to terms with it in time.

Help and Support

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