Families Change Kids Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Jane: You sure seem sad today, Neel.

Neel: Yeah. It’s really hard when your parents split up.

Jane: I know. When it happened to me last year, I had so many different feelings I didn’t know what to do. It was like being on a crazy roller coaster. One minute I was sad, and the next I was mad, and then scared or worried or confused…But you know what helped me?

Neel: What?

Jane: I went to see the school counsellor, Ms. Watson. She listened to me, and then told me lots of things about how kids feel when their parents don’t live together anymore. It really made sense.

Neel: What did she say?

Jane: Well…

Jane: The Feelings

Ms. Watson told me that it’s normal to have a lot of different feelings about your parents splitting up.

Counsellor: You might feel:

  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Scared
  • Confused
  • Worried
  • Ashamed
  • Guilty
  • Relieved

Jane: Sometimes I think I have all those feelings all at once!

Counsellor: There are other feelings you might have, too. You might:

  • Get really upset when you hear your parents arguing or crying.
  • Miss the parent you're not with.
  • Feel different from your friends and from other families.
  • Hope your parents will get back together.
  • Feel like you have to choose one parent or the other, or
    take sides.

The important thing to remember is that there are no right or wrong feelings.

Jane: What Happens

Ms. Watson told me that when you have really strong feelings about something, you might find that you…

  • Can’t think about anything else.
  • Can’t sleep, and have nightmares when you do sleep.
  • Get really mad at people over the smallest things.
  • Wet the bed at night.

Counsellor: Parents may have some of the same feelings that kids have. So, they might act in ways that you’re not used to. But don’t worry. They will feel better—and you will too!

Jane: Feeling Better

Ms. Watson told me that there are lots of things you can do to make yourself feel better.

Counsellor: Your feelings are important. Talk about them.

  • Tell your parents how you feel.
  • Tell a close friend.
  • Talk to someone in your family, like a grandparent or an aunt or uncle.
  • At school, you can talk to your teacher, or your counsellor—like you are doing today, Jane.

Talking about things can make you feel a lot better.

You can also talk about your feelings by writing in a diary or journal. Drawing pictures can help, too.

Crying can make you feel better. It lets the feelings out, instead of keeping them trapped inside.

Jane: What if I don’t feel like crying?

Counsellor: That’s OK too. Don’t try to make yourself cry if you don’t feel like crying.

Get lots of exercise. Go for a walk—or run! Ride your bike. Get someone to take you swimming or skating. Play basketball, or baseball, or hockey, or soccer. Exercise is a good way to let feelings out and to make yourself feel better.

Keep doing the things you like to do. Spend time with friends. Read books. Play with the dog. Go to the playground.

Jane: So it’s still OK to have fun?

Counsellor: Yes! It’s really important to have fun!

Jane: What if I do all these things and I still don’t feel better?

Counsellor: Ask for help if the feelings last for a long time, and are really getting in the way of the normal things you do in your life. Tell your parents, teacher, counsellor or another adult you trust that you want to talk to someone who can help you.

Jane: Good News

Guess what? Ms. Watson had good news!

Counsellor: There are lots of things you can do to make yourself feel better.

You won’t feel this way forever. Things will feel better again, maybe even sooner than you think!

Jane: Yikes! It’s getting late. I should get going.

Neel: Thanks for telling me what Ms. Watson said. I feel better now.

Jane: OK. See ya tomorrow!

Neel: See ya!