What to do if your parents are divorcing, according to a relationship expert

‘When you’re older you think you ought to be able to cope, and you feel a bit ashamed if you can’t’


There’s nothing good about January: it has Blue Monday and the sinister label of the “divorce month”.

More couples break up in January than any other month and stats show divorces are on the rise for couples over 50 – this means an increasing number of us have to deal with their parents splitting up while we’re at uni.

We spoke to relationship expert Christine Northam and asked her how to cope if your parents are breaking up.

The initial shock 

Christine says: “You embark on a completely new stage of your life as a young person: if things at home aren’t stable it can make you feel even more destabilised.

“Even though your parents’ relationship may have been very shaky, and unhappy, that’s the only reality you know.

“When you then find that your parents actually really were intending to get divorced, and in some cases have hung on for years, you can feel really angry.”

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Feeling pressure as an adult

Christine adds divorce may come at a difficult time of adjusting to uni life.

“When you’re older you feel you ought to be able to cope and that you should be able to cope because you are a student at university.

“Students feel they should be able to cope instead of actually talking about their feelings and processing them, you internalise them and that can lead you to feel depressed.

“You know that maybe your parents are really very upset, you don’t want to add to their worries, that might be another reason why you feel real pressure as a student to manage own your own.

“When you’re older you think you ought to be able to cope, and you feel a bit ashamed if you can’t.”

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Talk to people

Christine recommends: “Talk to other friends at college or university who have gone through a similar situation.

“It is really shocking and it’s a big loss and the best thing you can do is talk to friends, family or to get yourself some counselling.

“Find someone you can really process all your feelings with, because then somebody else will help you to feel normal, and most of us benefit from that.”

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Help is available 

“Check out your university counselling service, which very often have counselling for students.

“Think about how other people have coped, what helps you to cope when you hit a rocky patch, what’s helped in the past and what can help now.

“Go onto the Relate website, you’ll find free online counselling and free advice available, and have a look at what they have to offer you.”

Christine Northam is a counsellor for relationship charity Relate.