When you hear that your parents are splitting up it can feel like your world is falling apart. We caught up with 16-year-old Sam to find out what it feels like when your parents split up and what helps make the best of a bad situation.
How did you feel when your parents told you that they were getting divorced?
It was mind blowing. We came back from visiting my uncle and Dad had taken all his things. Everything had gone. Even his bike, which I thought was really mine as I was the one who used to ride it. It was all totally weird.
Was it a shock? Or were you expecting it?
It was a complete shock to all of us. It was a nightmare. Poor Mum was trying to tell us that it would be OK but she was scared too. We really couldn’t believe it.
How did your sister react?
I was 14 when it happened two years ago and my sister was 12. We used to hug each other. I think it made us closer.
Who did you talk to about it?
All our friends came round to the house and were very nice to us. It was good to carry on as normal even though everyone was so upset.
Did your relationship with other family members change?
I reckon we all helped each other and loved each other more, except Dad. He didn’t tell us where he had gone but kept sending cards to say he loved us.
Mum was worried about paying the bills and Dad wouldn’t answer her questions. It was a rotten time. Why do adults behave like this?
Are many of your friends’ parents divorced? Could you talk to them?
I knew a couple of my friends’ parents had got divorced and they used to talk to me and check I was OK at school.
They knew exactly how I was feeling and it was good to hang out together, even though they were a bit older. I always look out for anyone in the same situation now.
How did you cope with your feelings?
I cried a lot at home, and sometimes at school, when it had just happened but Mum said that was good.
I suppose it is best to let people know how you feel because if you bottle everything up, you feel as if you will explode.
Dad had a new life and girlfriend. It was as if he had never lived with us. One minute he was here and the next minute he had a new life. I suppose he didn’t know what to say to me but I wish he had tried.
Did your schoolwork suffer?
It did a bit at first but all my teachers knew what was happening and kept a close eye on me.
The court stuff went on for a long time with my parents and that was pretty tough but I kept going with my studies and did very well.
Sometimes it’s good to have a goal in your head so that you have something to do and work towards.
Did you have to move house?
Yeah, we had to move, but not far away. We are in the same town and I’m at the same school.
It’s a much smaller house but it’s ours. It has a good vibe as all my friends are welcome. Mum lets us play our music loud at weekends and gets us pizzas. We are not as well-off now but we all still have fun.
Did either of your parents remarry? If so, what was this like?
My dad has a partner. I didn’t get on with her at first. It even took a while to get to know my dad again as I was so angry with him. He didn’t seem to understand at first.
Do you have a new step-family? If so, what is this like?
They have a new baby which is OK. There’s a big age difference so I feel like an uncle and not a brother.
It can be a bit noisy at night at their house but I still visit. I spend a lot of time with my mates but it’s important to see Dad too.
Do you have any advice that might help young people going through the same situation?
Always speak about your worries and feelings. They don’t last forever and things soon get better.
It’s not the divorce that really hurts, it is the way your parents behave, but it does get back to being normal-ish. They go through a bad time too but it doesn’t mean that they love you any less. They just get wound up with the divorce.
You shouldn’t take sides and you should always see both parents. No one should stop you. This could take some time, as it did with me. It took some months for me to talk to Dad again. But we are all ok now and Mum is happy too. It’s just different.
Coping with Divorce tips
- Talk to someone about how you are feeling. Plenty of people have divorced parents and have been through it already. It can be good to talk to someone who knows what you are going through. If you don’t feel you can talk to someone you know try contacting Divorce Aid or ChildLine.
- Remember that your whole family is affected by this change. Your parents are probably finding this very difficult too. Talk to them about how you are feeling, but be aware that they are going through a tough time as well.
- Try to keep in touch with both parents. Just because things haven’t worked out between them doesn’t mean they don’t love you anymore.
- Try not to take sides. Even if the separation is messy, it is their relationship that has broken down – not yours. They are both your parents even if they are not together.
- Separation can be for the best; research has shown that young people who have parents that are always arguing often have more emotional problems than those whose parents split up.
- Remember that you will feel better in time.