The Counselling Centre

Having Divorced Parents

Approximately one in three marriages end in divorce and it is relatively common for parents to wait until their children leave home before separating. To parents it may look as if they are no longer needed and they may assume children won't be so greatly affected because they are older. But generally this is not the case; separation and divorce can have far-reaching implications for every member of a family whenever it happens. Adult children of divorced parents may not think about it all the time but their lives have been subtly influenced and possibly changed by their parents' divorce. A divorce always affects children, even adult children, and almost always has some effects, for example:

  • Shock or surprise Anxiety - you may worry about what is going to happen to you and who will take care of you
  • Sadness and a feeling of loss Anger - you may be angry at your parents or you may feel angry in general
  • Fear - if one of your parents leaves, you may be afraid of losing your other parent
  • Guilt - you may feel like it's your fault that your parents split up
  • Loneliness - you may feel that you have no one to talk to or that no one understands what you are going through
  • Worry - you may worry about your own ability to have a good relationship or marriage in the future

Your academic course work, your relationships, and even your emotional happiness may all be influenced by how you resolve problems and feelings associated with your parent's divorce. The full effect of the changes can take a long time to filter through and be resolved. In the future, there is the prospect of new partners for your parents, and new families expecting to welcome you. In the present there will be complications about “family occasions” such as birthdays, Christmas and graduation. But in the meantime do your best to preserve the part of your life which is your own and separate from your family.

Basic Guidelines for Surviving the Divorce

The following tips on how to take care of yourself may serve as guidelines for personal self-care.

Do not isolate yourself. Get support while you are going through this transition. Talk with a counsellor, friend or another trusted individual.

Take care of yourself emotionally. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. It may be very hard adjusting to your parent's divorce. Be aware you may have a range of feelings: sadness, anger, anxiety and depression to name a few. Allow yourself time to grieve the loss.

Take care of yourself physically. Going through a significant change like your parents' divorce may also affect your physical health. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy and find ways to blow off steam.

Don't jump to conclusions about what will happen. Many times we make assumptions about what will happen during and after the divorce. It's best to talk openly with your parents about what to expect for the future.

Keep clear boundaries with your parents. Be careful not to get stuck in the middle of your parent's fights. Often time's children get asked to take sides when parents are divorcing. Be clear with your parent's about not being asked to choose sides.


The Counselling Centre offers individual and couples counselling to help with these issues. For more information, call The Counselling Centre at 902-420-5615 or drop by our office on the 4th floor of the Student Centre.