Handling Separation

Why is separation a stressful time?

As separation involves making changes to many aspects of your lives, you may find the journey to a new life, home or relationship very challenging.

  • Separation is usually a traumatic event in any person’s life, especially when there is on-going conflict about arrangements that need to be made
  • It is usually very difficult for people to make adjustments that are needed after a separation
  • It is also emotionally difficult to detach from someone we have been in a relationship with for a while
  • Although couples have separated, there are still feelings of attachment. These feelings may be around for a long time

What are the causes of divorce and separation?

  • Lack of premarital counseling or marriage courses
  • Incompatibility
  • Increased societal stress on family
  • Breakdown of extended family, leaving the nuclear family without support
  • Lack of conflict resolution and problem solving skills
  • Specific stress like financial problems, drug/alcohol problem or emotional problem

How do teens respond to separation and divorce of their parents?

Some feelings and behavior a teenager may have include:

  • Upset, rage, hatred and anger toward parent
  • A sense of loss – for their home and their way of life
  • Guilt and remorse
  • Fear and insecurity
  • Abandonment and loneliness
  • Rejection or feeling unwanted
  • Finding it hard to let go of the relationship
  • Ambivalence and confusion, feel torn between two parents
  • Mood swings
  • Paralysis or frantic action
  • Under or overeating
  • Abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Prone to accident
  • Sleeping problems
  • Sudden overwhelming tears
  • Problems with studies
  • Withdrawn and refuse interaction with other people
  • Poor self – esteem and self – confidence
  • Difficulties in psychosocial adjustment
  • Lower psychological well – being
  • Poor support systems lead to lower self – esteem and social skills

How should the situation be best handled?

It would be helpful if:

  • You are not in contact or do not witness your parents arguing, yelling, screaming, crying, getting upset, name calling, belittling, making threats and put downs, showing violence or other such things
  • Your parents do not use you as “tools” to pump negative information about the “other” parent
  • Your parents ensure that when you are in their presence, put downs, name-calling, or threats are not made about the absent parent
  • Your parents maintain regular, appropriate contact with you either face-to-face or phone contact
  • Your parents do not make false promises to you (i.e. saying they will visit, phone, do something or go somewhere with them and then not follow through). Commitment to promises is extremely important to teenagers
  • Your parents do not rely on you for personal issues related to the separation and divorce
  • Your parents spend quality time with you. Read stories, play games, participate in outdoor activities etc
  • Your parents explain to you that you are not responsible for what has occurred
  • Your parents give you permission to ask questions. You need to understand as to why the separation occurred
  • You are prepared that your parents might have a new relationship
  • Parents are good role models for you

Where can you go for help?

Experiences from teenagers who have had to go through their parents’ separation found that they were able to cope better by talking to:

  • Parents
  • Friends
  • A counselor
  • A psychologist
Last Reviewed : 20 April 2012
Writer : Prof. Madya Dr. Hjh Normah binti Che Din
Reviewer : Dr. Mazni Bt. Mat Junus