Families come in all kinds of combinations, but it can be a really upsetting, confusing and stressful time when relationships between family members break down. If there are disagreements or arguments, this can make home life really tough which can impact on how a young person feels, how they cope at school/college, and even whether they want to take part in activities, or spend time with family and friends.
Lots of young people worry about their parents/carers and siblings during a separation, or when there are arguments. It can also be hard if parents separate and one of them meets a new partner. Some young people may have to move house or live with new people. Some young people may worry about how often they might see their family, or worry about how the family might cope. It is not uncommon that some young people worry if their parents have enough money. It’s not uncommon for young people to worry about whether parents separating is their fault.
When families experience a separation or a big change, it can take a while for all family members to understand, process and adjust to these changes. There is no right or wrong way to feel, think or behave; everyone processes change differently. Some days a young person may feel more able to cope than other days. It is important to be aware that some family members may struggle more than others with the changes.
What it might look like if a young person is struggling with family conflict or breakdown:
Having low self-esteem and lacking in confidence; feeling not good enough or not as good as anyone else.
Feeling worried and panicking; feeling responsible and guilty for things that may not be their responsibility
Having physical (body) feelings such as a racing heart rate, quicker breathing, upset tummy, feeling sick, feeling dizzy or faint, sweaty hands
Having lots of. “what if” thoughts (such as “what if something bad happens?” which can result in them feel too overwhelmed to engage in activities such as going to school
Feeling angry towards other people (this might mean they might behave in an angry way; being irritable, shouting or being physically aggressive)
Difficulties concentrating and struggling with motivation; you may notice or they may report they’re not doing as well in their work at school
They may not feel like hanging out with family, their friends or doing sociable things
They might not enjoy their hobbies and interests as much as they once did
Problems with sleep (difficulties getting to. or staying asleep, nightmares)
For some young people they may wet the bed at night (this is often a sign of unhappiness and stress)
They may have thoughts about harming themselves or ending their life.
Things that might help a young person if there is family conflict or breakdown:
Finding ways to manage anxiety and stress can be very helpful. See some techniques and strategies in the videos below
Share concerns with your child’s school/college and identify whether additional pastoral support is available
Help and support may be available from your child’s school nursing team.
Seek advice, guidance and support from Young Minds Parent Helpline: 08088025544