It’s not your fault

Parents split up for lots of reasons. Sometimes they find they want different things from life and grow apart. Sometimes they may disagree and fight, or say mean things to each other, or stop talking altogether. Sometimes they meet someone else who they decide they would rather be with.

Many young people feel a huge sense of guilt about their parents breaking up, thinking it might be their fault. Feeling guilty in this situation is natural, but you shouldn’t  – and mustn’t – accept the blame for things you can’t control.

Blaming yourself protects you from feeling bad about people you love, but the reality is you can’t control what your parents do: they’re adults who are capable of making their own decisions.

We asked young people whose parents have split up to share their thoughts about blame and guilt, and one of their strongest messages was: IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

Here’s what they said:

It’s not your fault.’ I must have heard this phrase a million more times than any kid should. ‘They’d been drifting apart for so long.’ But for how long? Perhaps 15 years? Because from where I’m standing, from the second I was conceived to the last second that I breathe, it will always be my fault.

Kay, 15

After my parents split up, my dad continued to pick me up every weekend and take me out, but this resulted in him and my mum arguing all the time, causing me to feel like everything was my fault.

Sophie, 17

It took me a while to realise that I was never going to be able to control what my parents did. I could never have stopped their break-up because they’re their own person, just as I am mine.

Kay, 16

It’s very easy to believe that your parents unhappiness is because of you, but it isn’t (I promise).

Brianna, 16

All me and my brother were thinking was, ‘This is all our fault. We’ve caused the stress and we’re the reason they haven’t been spending quality time with each other.’ You automatically think your parents’ split is your fault, but it’s not: it’s between your mum and your dad. People fall out of love, people have arguments. It’s how things go. Just because they’re not together any more, doesn’t mean they love you any less.

Sammie, 17

It’s only as I’ve got older that I understand the mental damage that was caused by being made to believe at such a young age that my parents’ separation was my fault. That guilt stayed with me for years.

Ellie, 16

The only advice I can give to teenagers coping with divorce is that in life people do fall out of love, or are no longer happy together, but this is by no means your fault. I often felt like I was to blame when my parents split up, but this isn’t true. If you’re suffering from abandonment issues with one of your parents, please remember that they are the adult and they should be the one to make the effort with you and be the bigger person. It is not your fault that they have perhaps left, or made the wrong choices concerning you – this is their own doing. Often adults do make wrong choices because after all, we’re all human. But just know that, hand on heart, it does get easier as time allows you to heal. It took me 10 years to realise that I wasn’t to blame for my parents’ divorce, but once I did, I started to feel much better.

Niamh, 16

There are many reasons why your parents could have decided to separate or divorce, but believe us, you are not one of those reasons.

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