A separation or divorce in the family is all too common now days with the divorce rate in Australia at almost 50%*. Many young people are placed in a situation where they need to learn new skills to cope with the changes. It can often bring out a mixture and extremes of emotions from sad to angry and it is very unsettling. There general mental health and wellbeing can be affected and they might need help adjusting.
Common reactions include:
- Feeling angry at the person who decided they no longer wanted to be in the marriage/relationship
- Feeling of helplessness about the situation they are finding themselves in
- Fear that they will be rejected by one or both parents
- Resentment about a new step parent being involved in the family
- Relief that there will be an end to the fighting
Tips to help young people cope with the challenges of a family breakup:
- It is important for parents to sit down and explain to their children at an age appropriate level why they have decided to separate. This will help the child understand that it is not their fault.
- Let the child know that it is normal to have a full range of emotions about the situation including anger and sadness.
- People decide to separate for many reasons, it is important not to talk about your problems with the child in case they feel the pressure to take sides.
- Try and make sure there are other family members, aunts, uncles and grandparents that are there for the children involved in the break up so they know they have someone they can go to who will listen to them and give them support.
- Let the child know that they can talk to a school counsellor or another professional if they need extra support coping with their feelings.
- Watch out for signs of depression (feeling sad, loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, withdrawing from social activities with friends) in the children involved and encourage them to keep up their interests and get help if they need it.
*Australian Psychological Society.
Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Beyondblue. Headspace. Australian Psychological Society