life after parental separation

Your parents separating can be really stressful, confusing and overwhelming. It can have a significant impact on you and your family in many ways, including on your emotional health and wellbeing.

Every family is different and though parental separation is common in Australia, it can occur in a variety of ways. Your parents may have been together for a long or a short time, there might be another person involved, or they may have grown apart.

It’s important to remember your parents’ separation is not because of you or your siblings - you are not to blame.

During this tough time, there are things you can do and places you can turn to for support.


What it might feel like for you

You might feel a variety of emotions about your parents’ separating. This includes feeling overwhelmed, angry, hurt, loss, grief or you might experience a sense of betrayal. If your parents’ relationship had a difficult impact on your home life, you might experience relief that they are separating. It’s totally normal to feel a range of emotions.

Parental Seperation image

With time and support, the intensity of feelings will lessen in most young people and they will adapt to the situation.

Some other circumstances might indicate a need for extra support. These can include changes to your behaviour including: 

  • avoiding social situations

  • mood and behaviour changes such as getting angry or upset easily

  • changes to eating patterns like over-eating or loss of appetite

  • constant worrying

  • taking drugs and alcohol

  • increased arguments with family members or friends, at home or in school

  • withdrawing from family, school or friends.

How can you support yourself

Having your parents separate can feel overwhelming and may lead to changes in your living situation and day-to-day life that you aren’t ready for. Coping with this change can be stressful but there are things you can do to support yourself during this tough time.


Talk to your parents

Dealing with change can be difficult and feeling like you have little control over the situation can feel overwhelming. Depending on your relationship, it can be a good idea to talk with your parents. Find a time when everyone is calm and let them know how you are feeling. You might want to discuss who you want to live with, the effect it might have on your school routine and your social life, as well as any other changes you are concerned about.

Your parents might not know the answers yet, but having open, honest conversations with them will let them know you would like to be included in decisions that will affect you.

It’s better to talk about your concerns than have them build up. There might be solutions you can come up with together.

Parents seperating group chat

eheadspace Group Chat My parents have separated

Separation can leave the family feeling upset, confused or shocked. Worries can come up like: living arrangements, new step parents or feeling like the situation was your fault. It can be a confusing and difficult time and you may not know what to do or who to turn to for advice and support.

Click here for the group chat transcript

Reach out to others

It can be helpful to reach out to others for support.  Some options that might work for you:

  • a close friend may be able to listen and be there for you

  • other family members might provide guidance and support

  • your school counsellor can help you during a tough period of transition, particularly with keeping your studies on track

  • speaking to a professional from eheadspace or Kids Helpline can help support you while you go through these changes in your life.

If you feel overwhelmed and want to speak to a health professional about your parents’ separation, you can contact a free and confidential service such as headspace or Kids Helpline.


Look after yourself

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing helps you cope better during tough times. This includes staying active, doing things you enjoy, eating and sleeping well, connecting with friends and limiting the use of alcohol and other drugs. Discover more tips for a healthy headspace

Be kind to yourself as you adapt to change in your life – it may take some time to fully adjust.


Other useful websites

Youth Law Australia - this website discusses separation and your rights. You can also get free and confidential advice.


The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.

Last reviewed 3 September 2019

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