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My parents have separated
November 19th 2015 @ 5pm AEDT
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.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:22 pm
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:25 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Hi everyone, welcome to today’s live info session. Today we’re talking about when our parents separate, or get divorced, and all the changes that we have to cope with during that time. It can be difficult and stressful for everyone, so hopefully we can give you some resources or hints about how to get through that time.
Joining me today are eheadspace clinicians: Cat, Laura, Caitlin, Viv and Jodie. We also have a couple of youth reps with us today: Sarah and Charlie from our hY NRG team.
We’ve really enjoyed seeing you talking with each other in these chats, encouraging each other and being supportive – feel free to do that tonight too! You might have ideas that we don’t mention, or you may have experienced something similar and you can let us know how you coped with it. It’s helpful if you use a name (even if it’s not your real one) as it helps the conversation flow.
A couple of things before we start:
*When you submit your question it won't appear straight away
*Our team will be busy reading and preparing an answer to your question before it's posted live - we appreciate your patience!
*If we can't publish anything we'll let you know (in a private message)
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28th Aug, 3:32 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hi everyone, My name is Sara and I'm on the headspace Youth National Reference Group. I'm 25 and I look forward with chatting with you guys today!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:32 pm
Viv: Hi Kim
I am sorry to hear that your parents have separated and it sounds that things are really difficult for them still. It may be helpful to let them know that you are worried about this continuing and how much it affects you. I guess it takes time or families to make ajdustments too with such a big change in the family
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28th Aug, 3:32 pm
Comment From Kim
My mum and dad separated a few months ago but they're still arguing all the time. I don't know how to help them :(
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28th Aug, 3:33 pm
Comment From Billie
My sister is really sad because mum has moved out, I feel happy though because it means things are peaceful at home. I feel guilty that i'm happy, is that ok?
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:47 pm
Caitlin eheadspace: Hi Billie, thanks so much for your question.
When parents separate there are so many feelings that can come up - and all of them are OK! There is no "right" way to feel. It's quite common for kids to say that they feel relieved/better when one parent moves out because tension and fighting reduces. So feling happy that things are more peaceful at the moment is perfectly ok!
You might find that your feelings change over time, and that's OK too. If you don't feel like you can talk to your folks at the moment, you might like to speak with your sister about all the changes. It's important to feel supported through this change.
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28th Aug, 3:33 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hi Kim, I appreciate you being the first person to talk about something! When my parents separated they argued a lot in front of me and it was very stressful. I asked them to not argue in front of me and it has helped a lot! I think it's really important to have a say in how you feel about things during your parents separation.
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28th Aug, 3:33 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hi Billie,
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28th Aug, 3:33 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hi Billie, feeling happy is very normal and as Caitlin said you feelings might change but for now you should enjoy feeling happy and peaceful.
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28th Aug, 3:33 pm
Comment From Sophie
Hi, my mum and dad divorced a year ago. My mum always tells me all the things she is annoyed at about dad, and dad does the same thing. It's really annoying - I feel so stuck in the middle!!I just wish I could see one parent without them dissing the other.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:33 pm
Jodie eheadspace: Hi Sophie - that sounds like a really tricky situation for you to be in. I wonder if your parents even realise what they are doing. It might be a good idea if you let them know how it makes you feel when they speak like that about each other. Making sure that you are heard is really important.
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28th Aug, 3:34 pm
Comment From tim
my little sister who is 15 is sad that my parents have separated. how do i comfort her and make her feel better
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:34 pm
Cat eheadspace: Hi Tim,
That's a really great question and good on you for looking out for your sister. One of the best things you can do is keep letting her know that she can talk to you about how she is feeling. You can also reassure her that it's normal to have a range of emotional reactions to parenst separarting and there is no right or wrong feeling. And, that if she wants to talk to a professional, eheadspace is here as a support option- telephone and online support, 9am-1am every day of the year- https://www.eheadspace.org.au/
Remember to take care of yourself as well :)
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28th Aug, 3:35 pm
Comment From Guest
Hey guys, my name is Charlie and I'm also on the youth reference group! I'm 21 and am absolutely happy to lend you my thoughts. Looking forward to chatting :)
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28th Aug, 3:35 pm
Comment From Jane
I'm so stressed! My mum's new boyfriend has moved in, and he's such a pain. He's bossy and tries to make up rules...but my mum just lets him, even thought the rules aren't the same ones she used to say
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:35 pm
Laura eheadspace: Hey Jane - thanks so much for your question - i reckon lots of people will relate to your situation. It is a huge change when one of your parents gets a new partner...let alone when they move in! It's understandable you are feeling so stressed, especially when it feels like he is bossing you around and changing the rules.
I think that a good first step is to have a one-on-one chat with mum to let her know how you're feeling...and have an open and honest discussion about how this is impacting you. Mum may actually have no idea! Then you can have a think together about what might help (e.g. maybe mum can chat to her boyfriend and let him know about the house rules etc).
I also wonder if maybe your mum's boyfriend is a little nervous about moving in - and maybe bossing you around is his way of trying to be involved in the family? Once things settle and everyone feels a little more comfortable with each other...things may feel less stressful all round!
Hope this is helpful Jane!
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28th Aug, 3:36 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hi Sophie, when my parents separated, they kept dissing each other to me which was really stressful eventually i had to tell them how it made me feel. I then asked that they don't say anything bad about each other to me because I love both of them and that if they need to talk about their issues with each other I am not the best person for that. a councillor or a friend would be better. They still slip up from time to time but it makes life a lot easier.
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28th Aug, 3:36 pm
Comment From Billlie
Hi Caitlin, thankyou. My sister doesn't want to talk about it Caitlin, she thinks I'm mean for being happy. I've thought about talking to my school counsellor, but I don't know if she knows it's all happening
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:36 pm
Caitlin eheadspace: That's tough, Billie. Sounds like you and your sister are experiencing different feelings related to the separation, which is OK because siblings can have really different reactions to divorce.
I think it's awesome that you've thought about speaking to the school counsellor! You don't have to go through this stuff alone. I reckon you could fill your school counsellor in on what's happening (you only have to share what you feel comfy with) and let her help you with the conflicting feelings of guilt and happiness. It's often helpful to get an outsider's perspective.
All the best Billie. Thanks again for your questions :)
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28th Aug, 3:37 pm
Comment From Dylan
My dad wants me to live with him and his new girlfriend, but mum wants me to stay with her. They've only just got separated and I'm feeling very confused and lost. I don't know who to pick, and dad says he will just make me live with him. Can I choose? Who should I choose?
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:37 pm
Viv: Hey Dylan
That's a real hard situation to be facing and it is not surprising that it feels confusing and not knowing how to best deal with this . I am guessing you don't want to hurt either of your parents feelings, however it is really important that you think about where you may feel the most comfortable and happy. Even though you may feel some disloyalty to the other parent. Most children are able to say where they want to live and it is only in extreme situations where things need to be decided by a court. Usually this appiles to families with children perhaps under the age of 12 where the court helps make a decision but the young person still has a strong say about where they want to live. Counselling is a helpful way of sorting these type of issues out. It would be helpful to talk it out with your parnts and may be even ask that you see a counsellor to talk it through alone and with your family
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28th Aug, 3:37 pm
Comment From anon
How do I make my parents listen to what I want? I find it very hard to make either of them understand my thoughts or how I feel about all this. I would like them to understand me more so that they don't keep making things worse
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:37 pm
Jodie eheadspace: Good question - thank you. It sounds like your parents are pretty caught up with things and can't hear you. That must feel really frustrating for you.
It's really important that you are able to let them know how you are feeling. Speaking with each of them on their own might be a good way to start. Try to organise a time when you can sit down and speak with them when there is nothing else going on. Sometimes preparing what you want to say - by writing it down - can help get your message across.
Don't give up :)
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28th Aug, 3:37 pm
Comment From Charlie
Hey Kim, I can empathize with you as my parents are currently going through a very rough patch, and I often find myself in the middle of their fighting. I'm really sorry to hear that you're finding this hard too. I often feel that I'm the one mediating their arguments. I've found it really helpful to actually let them know that I'm finding this difficult, and that their fights really impact me quite a lot. I have to resist getting involved, as this often just complicates things. Sometimes the best thing you can do to help them is look after yourself!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:37 pm
Caitlin eheadspace: Hi Chrissy, Sorry to hear you're feeling repsonsible for your folks breaking up. Adult have their own reasons for divorce... Whatever the reason is, one thing is for sure: kids don't cause divorce.
Some kids think that if only they behaved better or got better grades then their parents would have stayed together. But this isn't true! Reasons for divorce have nothing to do with kids. So please try to remember that.
It sounds like this is weighing you down so please consider talking to a counsellor about this stuff. Make an appointment with your school counsellor or log on to eheadspace for a webchat. You don't have to be alone through this!
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28th Aug, 3:37 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hi Anon, to continue from what Jodie was saying. Sometimes finding different ways to communicate might help. Like you could write a letter to your parent that way it's in writing and they have to to some degree digest what you're saying. I really hope they start to listen to you because your voice is important!
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28th Aug, 3:38 pm
Comment From Chrissy
Lots of people say it's not my fault, but I know inside that im the reason that my parents broke up. I don't know how to deal with that.
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28th Aug, 3:38 pm
Comment From phoebe
hi, my parents have separated my my brother is depressed and has anxiety, i am going to my school councilor but i feel as if it just inst working or making me feel better and a feel weird to say that to her or my mum because she worries that i am keeping everything in. what do i do?
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:38 pm
Cat eheadspace: Hey Phoebe,
Thanks for sharing your experience. It can feel scary to be honest about what is and isn't working for us, but it's really important. It sounds like your mum would be really open to hearing that. And it's also the job of the school counsellor to change her methods if they are not helping you- but she needs to know. Sometimes if you don't feel comfortable talking to your parents, a good starting point can be writing them a letter or email- that way you can get stuff off your chest, and nobody can interrupt you!
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:39 pm
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28th Aug, 3:39 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hi Chrissy, Thanks for sharing! It can be really easy to blame yourself for what your parents are doing. When my parents broke up i always blamed myself and my siblings. separation is so complicated that it is never the children's fault. It took a while for me to realise that. I saw a councillor and that really helped me with the emotions I was going through. Look after yourself, you're already doing a great thing by talking about it! Thank you
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28th Aug, 3:39 pm
Comment From Clara
My parents divorced about a year ago and the main thing stressing me out is having to move between two houses and keep track of all my school stuff. My parents keep hassling me and telling me to be more organised but it's hard- they don't understand, they only have to keep on top of one house!
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:39 pm
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:47 pm
Laura eheadspace: Hey Clara - gr8 question - living between 2 houses is a reality for a lot of ppl whose parents divorce...and it's not easy....especially when you have to think about so much stuff that you usually wouldn't have to.
It sounds like keeping track of your school stuff is particularly tricky - and probably has some big consequences if you're rocking up at school without your stuff :/
Sometimes it can be helpful to set up a system , which can become a part of your routine (e.g. have all your school stuff together in one bag, and leave it somewhere really obvious - maybe near the front door). Then you need to get in the habit of grabbing it (maybe you could write a reminder in your diary? Or maybe you could ask mum and dad to remind you too so that it isn't all on you - i bet that will be much more helpful than hassling!)
Thanks again for the question Clara - good luck!!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:40 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Hey guys, this is a great resource to use if you have questions about custody or legal stuff. You're able to send an email to get free, confidential legal advice specific to your state. You need to be under 25 to access them (or you can ask for advice on behalf of someone under 18) - but it's a good way to get the information you need!
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28th Aug, 3:40 pm
Comment From Tess
All this year I have been doing my best at school and at home. I haven't been in trouble and have really tried not to fight with my brother but my parents are still getting a divorce - what else can I do?
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:40 pm
Caitlin eheadspace: Hi Tess, so sorry to hear how you're feeling. It sounds like your trying soooo hard to keep your parents together. And it makes sense to wish that they wouldn't split - family break down can be so hard. It can be such a sad and anxious time, and kids often find themselves doing anything they can to keep mum and dad together.
But I really want you to know that your behaviour (good or bad) has nothing to do with your mum and dad separating. Their decision is between them only. Please don't burden yourself with the repsonsibility! It can be so exhausting to be on your best behaviour all the time. Let yourself be you and know your mum and dad will love you no matter what.
Take good care of yourself, k? And thanks again for your question!
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:40 pm
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28th Aug, 3:40 pm
Comment From Charlie
Hey Chrissy, I'm sorry to hear you're finding this tough. This is certainly something that I can relate to, as well. Growing up as my parents were fighting, I often assumed that me and my siblings were the cause of their arguments. I found this so tough! It's so easy to think this, but I can tell you that 5 years later it is becoming clearer and clearer that this isn't the case at all. As I'm now older, my mum now tells me things (which often I don't want to know!) - that make me realize I was never the cause of their unhappiness. Remember that it's so hard to understand from your parents perspective what they're going through, and it is certainly not your fault! If anything, you are the reason they're not fighting more! Remember that often, our parents separate because they love us and they genuinely think this is best for us. Keep your head up :)
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28th Aug, 3:40 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hey Clara, Living between two houses is super tricky. I found it really difficult during highschool. Many mornings where spent quickly dropping into my dads to get a text book I forgot!
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28th Aug, 3:40 pm
Comment From Guest
My mum and dad fight all the time. They yell at each other most days and sometimes dad drives off in the car to get space. It's really frustrating and makes it hard to study. I've had exams recently and they made it so hard to study at home. I don't like seeing my little sisters when mum and dad fight cos it's so bad. How can I talk to them to get them to think about getting a divorce? I think things would be better
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:40 pm
Jodie eheadspace: Hey - thanks for your question. It must be really tough for you seeing your parents argue and yell at each other. I guess only they can make the decision about getting a divorce but something you could do is let them know how much their fighting impacts you.
Letting your sister know that she can talk to you might also help her cope with your parents arguments. Make sure you look after yourself amongst all of this and maybe you could try talking with other family members like your grandparents or aunts and uncles who could help.
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:41 pm
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28th Aug, 3:43 pm
Comment From Tilly
My Mum and Dad split up a few years ago and I have to go between both their houses. I get really worried when I have to go to Mum's house because she's always drinking alochol and says really nasty stuff to me. Her new boyfriend is pretty aggressive too. I find myself dreading going to her place. Do I have to go? I just want to stay at my Dad's where I feel safe.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:43 pm
Viv: Hello Tilly
I am really sorry to hear about your parents separating and now having to deal with your mum drinking an dnasty comments and having to deal with your mum's boyfriend's aggression. I am guessing that this may make you feel unsafe and like you say leaves you feeling worried. I want to suggest that you speak with your Dad about what is going on at your mum's house and make a plan about how to manage the situation when you go to mum's . Like if mum is drinking and saying nasty things when you are there you can plan for your dad to come and pick you up. However if things are making you feel uncomfortable and unsafe yo have a right to say that you don't want to go over to your mum's until some changes happen in that household. If you felt comfortable to speak to your mum in times when she is not drinking then you coul try that and let her know what oyu are needing from her. If this doe snot feel possible than your Dad has to take up these issues with your mum and help her realise that she is risking the relationship with you by not wanting to go over anymore
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28th Aug, 3:43 pm
Comment From sam
my parents always argue about me. I know that's why they divorced, and they still argue about me all the time. I don't know how to be better so they don't need to fight all the time.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:43 pm
Caitlin eheadspace: Hi Sam, sorry to hear your folks are always fighting :(
It sounds like you're feeling just like Chrissy and Tess... so if anything you are not alone! Just like I said to them - kids are not the cause of parent's conflict. Trying to be better to keep them together puts soooo much pressure on yoursef.
Do your parents know how you feel? If not, try sharing your concerns with them. Parents can get pretty caught up in their own heads when they are going through a divorce. They can sometimes miss how their kids are feeling (even if they don't mean to). I reckon you'd be doing them a favour by telling them you think their divorce is your fault. It can feel uncomfy to share your feelings, but I reckon it would be a helpful way to start this important conversation with them. All the best :)
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28th Aug, 3:43 pm
Comment From Charlie
Hey Phoebe, it's really hard to know that your siblings are struggling too. Good on you for going to your school counselor! From my experience, the first step of speaking up is really hard. I think it's so important to remember that we won't necessarily get along with every counselor we meet. For me, it wasn't until I met a second therapist that I really felt their help was 'working' :). Please don't feel hopeless just because this counselor isn't working for you. A really good start could be checking online where your nearest headspace centre is and going in to see them, or even chatting to a counselor on eheadspace. I have friends that have visited several therapists before they met the one they really liked! Each therapist has a different approach, and it's okay to try another! Hang in there :)
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28th Aug, 3:43 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hi Sam, when parents fight it is their issue regardless of what they are fighting about. Telling them how you feel is a great first step. I wish you well!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:43 pm
Laura eheadspace: Hey Lucinda - sounds as tho you are feeling pretty confused about who to talk to about your parents divorce...and how...?
This is a big issue...and important to think about...
An important thing to remember is that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way for you to start talking about your parents divorce with your friends...you need to work out what feels right for you...
I think that starting with the ppl closest to you is a great move - so good work talking to your friend. It's good that you now have someone who knows about what's going on for you...and can support you with what's happening :)
In terms of talking to others, I reckon if you feel uncomfortable then don't feel any pressure to open up. Maybe it might feel a little more comfortable down the track...
And in terms of the sympathy speech - might think this is helpful and it's their way of being nice :) Maybe if someone starts up the speech, you can just politely brush it off and let them know you're OK and don't need to talk about it...and after some time passes I think ppl will relax on the sympathy front :)
I hope this is helpful Lucinda - take care OK :)
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28th Aug, 3:43 pm
Comment From lucinda
hi, who do i tell my friends that my parents have separated? i have told one but i'm not sure i feel comfortable telling in some in particular since i am not as close to them as other people in my group of friends. i also don't want to have that same sympathy speech over and over again
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:43 pm
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:44 pm
Jodie eheadspace: Hi Maddy, you know it's totally OK that you like your dads new girlfriend. I guess though for mum it feels tough. Just letting your mum know that you will always love her and that she will always be an important part of your life might be important for her to hear. Hopefully that helps!
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28th Aug, 3:44 pm
Comment From Maddy
My dads new girlfriend is really cool and she lets me do what I want. I like spending time with her, but mum tells me I shouldn't and tells me to ignore her when Im there. I don't know how to tell mum not to do that cos I like her.
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28th Aug, 3:44 pm
Comment From Jo
How can I make sure that both my parents can come to see me in school things (like productions and prize givings). We usually get 2 tickets, but now my mum has a boyfriend and she would want him to come too. I don't mind if he comes, but I want my dad too.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:44 pm
Cat eheadspace: Hey Jo, thanks for your question- I reckon this is a really common situation.
It's up to you who comes to your school events. And it's really important that your parents respect that, and help manage that. So for example- most schools are pretty flexible about providing extra tickets to families- your mum would just need to ask for one for her boyfriend. What you can do is keep talking to both parents and letting them know what you want and need from them. Be as open as you can :)
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:44 pm
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
28th Aug, 3:46 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Thanks for joining us this afternoon everybody. It’s a big subject, families are all so different and each one has different things to cope with. If we haven’t covered your question today, or if you feel like reading more information you could check out these links below.
http://divorceandteens.weebly.com/- American support page with lots of links
https://www.lawmail.org.au/verification- free and confidential legal service for Australian children and young people
more information about divorce and how to cope with it - https://kidshelpline.com.au/kids/issues/parents-hurting-each-other
Dealing with Divorce – an article that discusses ways to cope with feelings about divorce (this is American, so some of the legal terms are different): http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/families/divorce.html
Thankyou to the clinicians that joined us today - and special thanks to hY NRG teams members Charlie and Sara
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:46 pm
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28th Aug, 3:46 pm
Comment From Sara - hYNRG
Hey guys, as our time here is finishing I just wanted to thank all of you for sharing your concerns and questions with headspace! You're all awesome. I wish you all the best with your journey through your parents separations and divorces. Be kind to yourself and others. Bye for now.
eheadspace Moderator
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28th Aug, 3:46 pm
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28th Aug, 3:47 pm
Comment From Charlie
Thanks so much everyone for all your comments. I can say from my own experience that it does get easier. Most importantly, remember to look after yourselves. Often the most courageous thing you can do for both yourselves and your parents is to speak up, tell them how you're feeling, and/or seek advice from a counselor or therapist. Speaking to someone like a counselor, outside of your family situation, I have found so helpful as their opinions are totally non biased! Remember that the challenges your parents are facing are separate to you. See you next time guys!
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28th Aug, 3:47 pm