How to Help Your Teen Understand and Adapt to Your Divorce

List: Posted: 10/03/11

When you are going through a divorce, it is important to remember that your teenager will also be going through intense emotions.  Many parents assume that their teen will be able to adapt to the divorce, and so they focus all of their energy on helping their younger children cope with the situation. 

 

Teenage children are very adept at putting on a mask of self-sufficiency.  Keep in mind that, underneath this mask, lie complex emotions that may be confusing and painful for your teenage child.

 

The transition from childhood to adulthood is already difficult enough without the added issue of divorce.  However, you are not alone.  Over half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce, and many of these families include teenage children.  What steps can you take to help your teen with the divorce?

 

Create an Open Atmosphere for Discussion

 

A teen is more likely to internalize their emotions.  This is especially true when major events are happening in their life that they are confused about.  Your teen may withdraw when they are told about the divorce.  At the opposite extreme, they may lash out at you. 

 

Never deny or criticize your child’s feelings.  Instead, set aside a time where you can focus all of your attention on the needs of your teen.  They should feel comfortable talking about how the divorce is affecting them.  Help them to understand that the divorce had nothing to do with them while letting them know that their feelings are important to you.

 

Stay Positive - Never Ask Your Child to 'Pick Sides'

 

Your teen loves both parents.  Talking disrespectfully about your ex-spouse will only cause your teen to become more confused and hurt by the situation.  It will give your child peace of mind knowing that both parents are working together to make the transition as non-confrontational as possible. 

 

Do not expose your child to ongoing arguments between you and your spouse if you can avoid it.  If frequent clashes are happening within earshot of the kids, diffuse things by visiting a relationship councilor once a week to work through your issues away from your family.

 

Maintain Family Routines

 

Let your child know that both parents will still be in his or her life, and will work together to ensure continued support for their children.  Stay true to your promise by remaining active in your child’s life.  Many teenage children feel abandoned after one parent leaves the home.  You can lessen this feeling by making sure that both you and your ex-spouse continue to participate in your child’s life.


Keep Rules Consistent

 

Do not relinquish the rules you have set up with your teen before the divorce.  It may be tempting to feel sorry for your child and, in an attempt to ease their pain, allow them to do whatever they want.  Children thrive on a family structure that includes routine and may become even more confused when everything changes at once.  Continue to share meals and other regular activities with your teen.

 

While it is important to stick with routine, it is equally helpful to not pretend like not much has changed.  Acknowledge your child’s feelings.  At the same time, create a positive atmosphere where you are continually experiencing new things with your child . They will be much more likely to eventually adapt to the divorce when you create an encouraging atmosphere that includes a lot of love and support.

 

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