Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Caught in the Middle

Do you feel caught in the middle of your parents' problems?

Sometimes parents use you in their battles — whether they know they are doing it or not. For example, one or both parents might:

  • Ask you to carry messages.
  • Ask you to give them information about the other parent.
  • Ask you to keep secrets from the other parent.
  • Expect you to listen to him or her saying mean things about the other parent, or blaming the other parent for everything that has happened
  • Try to make you take sides, or choose one parent over the other.

If you are feeling caught in the middle:

  • Tell your parents how you feel. They might not realize what they are doing, and once they do, they might stop.
  • Say you would rather not carry messages, or spy on the other parent. If parents want to tell each other something, they should do it themselves. If a parent wants information, he or she should simply ask the other parent.
  • Say you don't want to hear them complaining about each other, because it hurts you.
  • Tell them they need to work out their problems themselves. It's not your job.
  • Tell them you love them both, and you will not choose one over the other.
  • Don't get involved in your parents' arguments. If they are arguing in front of you, walk away.

If it's too hard for you to say things like this directly to your parents, try writing them in a letter.

It’s helpful to be able to talk to your parents about your feelings and to be clear about your needs. It may be hard, but communicating with them will help you face the changes and challenges that lie ahead.

Q & A

What will my friends say when they find out?

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. But separation and divorce are very common these days.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. You're still you, even though your family is changing.

Do I have to take sides, or choose one parent over the other?

No, you don't. You have the right to love and be loved by both parents.

If you are feeling pressured to take sides, and you feel you are caught in the middle of your parents' problems, tell them.

I have so many questions. How much can I ask my parents?

If there are things you need to know, ask. You have a right to ask questions about what is going to happen and why.