Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Abuse at Home

Is there abuse or violence happening in your home? If so, there are some important things you need to know.

There are different kinds of abuse. Abuse is using pain, fear or humiliation to get your way. Abuse can be:

  • Physical — inflicting pain by pushing, restraining, pinching, shaking, slapping, punching, choking, and so on.
  • Emotional or psychological — name-calling, making threats, putting people down, humiliating and criticizing.
  • Sexual — inappropriate or unwanted advances or touching for a sexual purpose, or pressuring a person to have sex or to do sexual things he or she doesn't want to do.

There is no excuse for abuse. Healthy relationships do not include abuse. Period. It's OK to have strong feelings, but it's not OK to express them by hurting others. No one has a right to abuse another person. And no one deserves to be abused. Ever.

You are not to blame.

If there is violence in your home, whether against a parent, one of your siblings, or you, you are not to blame. The person who is abusing or being violent is responsible for his or her actions.

You are not alone. Abuse is an ugly secret in many homes. Lots of other children and teens experience abuse at home. More importantly, there are people who can help. They can help:

  • People who have experienced abuse.
  • People who have seen someone else being abused.
  • People who abuse.

If there is abuse or violence in your home, seek help.

If you or someone in your family is experiencing abuse or violence, seek help right away! You may want to protect your family and not break the family secret, but it is very important that you get help.

If you or someone else in your family is in immediate DANGER:

  • Call your local RCMP. Dial your local 3-digit prefix, followed by 1111 (if you can, go to another room or a neighbour's place to call).
  • Don't get in the middle or try to protect the person who is being hurt.
  • Stay away, and find a safe place in the house or at a neighbour's.

If you aren't feeling safe at home:

  • Tell a teacher or school counsellor.
  • Talk to an adult you can trust, like the parent of a close friend.
  • Contact the police or a social worker.
  • In NWT, call the NWT Help Line at 1-800-661-0844.

It's important to find a supportive adult who can help, not just a friend. While it's good to have friends who will listen to you and support you, they may not know what to do to get help.

Growing up with abuse doesn't mean that you will continue the cycle. If you are worried about having the same patterns of abuse and violence in your own relationships as a teen or an adult, there is good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. Children who grow up in families where there is abuse learn from it, and can carry what they've learned into future relationships. They can learn that in order to get their way, they have to use force or intimidation — and can become abusers. Or their self-esteem is so low that they feel they don't deserve better — and they can become victims.

Now here's the good news: you have a choice. It is possible to unlearn the behaviour you have learned from your family. It is also possible to learn from the challenges that you experience.

Here's what you can do to break the cycle:

  • Find out about the differences between healthy and abusive relationships.
  • Seek counselling. A counsellor can help you deal with your own feelings about what you have seen and experienced. He or she can also help you develop healthy ways to deal with your anger.
  • Feel better about who you are. Remember that the violence you experienced or saw was not your fault. A counsellor can also help you to improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Wondering how to find a counsellor? Talk to your school counsellor, your family doctor or another adult you trust. Ask him or her to help you find out about programs in your community that can help. (Most communities have services for victims of abuse and for abusers.)

 

Healthy and Abusive Relationships

In a healthy relationship, the partners:

  • Listen to each other.
  • Consider each other's thoughts and feelings.
  • Respect, trust, and support each other.
  • Recognize each other's strengths and achievements.
  • Respect each other's culture.
  • Decide together if and when to have sex.
  • Feel safe with each other, both alone and with others.
  • Enjoy spending time with each other, both alone and with others.
  • Encourage each other to spend time with friends and family when they want to.

In an abusive relationship, one person might:

  • Ignore the other person's feelings and wishes.
  • Ignore or pretend not to hear the other person.
  • Call the other person names.
  • Put the other person down about the way he or she dresses, talks, walks, dances and so on.
  • Get jealous when the other person is around guys or girls.
  • Be suspicious about the other person's activities all the time.
  • Control the other person with threats.
  • Control how much time the other person spends with friends and family.
  • Embarrass or tease the other person in a mean way.
  • Play mean tricks on the other person.
  • Tell the other person's secrets.
  • Act more friendly when alone with the other person than when his or her friends are around.
  • Sulk when the other person doesn't do what he or she wants.
  • Threaten suicide.
  • Encourage or pressure the other person to do things that make him or her feel uncomfortable.
  • Show anger and use threats and/or violence to get his or her own way.
  • Refuse to accept the other person's limits about sexual activity.
  • Push the other person around, or hit him or her.
  • Take or destroy the other person's possessions.
  • Hurt or threaten to hurt the other person's pet.

Do you recognize yourself as doing any of these things to another person, or having any of them done to you? If so, you may be in an abusive relationship.

Whether you are the person abusing another or the person being abused, get help.

Talk to a school counsellor, family doctor or another adult you trust. Ask him or her to help you find a counsellor or community program that can help.

 

Q & A

Q:
What will my friends say when they find out?
A:

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. But separation and divorce are very common these days.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. You're still you, even though your family is changing.

Q:
Do I have to take sides, or choose one parent over the other?
A:

No, you don't. You have the right to love and be loved by both parents.

If you are feeling pressured to take sides, and you feel you are caught in the middle of your parents' problems, tell them.

Q:
I have so many questions. How much can I ask my parents?
A:

If there are things you need to know, ask. You have a right to ask questions about what is going to happen and why.