Divorce can be an unpleasant and traumatic experience for all involved. Pre-teens and adolescents are no exception to this; they’re already undergoing a turbulent life stage and the divorce of their parents can add even more chaos to the situation. It might seem overwhelming, so let’s take a look at some points for teens and pre-teens to consider when going through their parents’ divorce.
Let your parents know about your concerns
A family divorce has repercussions for everyone. As a teen, you quite likely will have concerns about how it might affect you. For instance, if one of your parents is moving to another town, you might fear that this will mean having to move school or face not seeing them and suffer from the estrangement that will ensue. Discuss these concerns with your parents, both of them. While you may feel that you’re being selfish, you have to be practical as well.
Try not to shut out one parent over the other
While each situation is different, it’s important to at least try to hear both sides of any argument when it comes to parents splitting up. Some divorces are quite amicable, others can be more toxic. Try not to let one parent influence you over the other. If you’re feeling like you’re been used as a pawn between two parents, or that something isn’t quite right, make sure you talk to another trusted adult such as a teacher or guidance counsellor about the situation.
Don’t bottle your feelings up
It’s only natural that many feelings may arise as you process your parents’ divorce. These might include sadness, frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, guilt, even relief. At times you may feel overwhelmed by these feelings, and if this is the case make sure you talk about them with someone. Apart from your parents and siblings, consider discussing them with friends, extended family members, or a trusted adult such as a guidance counsellor or teacher.
Don’t let your feelings impact others
Hey, it’s quite natural that you may be feeling a lot of anger towards your parents during and after the divorce process. Let it out in healthy ways, for example, by journaling your feelings or through artistic expression. Don’t lash out on others, be they siblings, classmates, teammates, etc. And while you should of course let your parents know how you’re feeling, try not to lash out at them either.
Have empathy for your parents during the divorce
For all the emotions you’re feeling, remember that this process hasn’t been easy for your parents either. They’re no doubt experiencing a range of emotions themselves and may well feel guilt about how it’s affecting you. Be kind. Being harsh to them or lashing out won’t help anyone and will just make the atmosphere more tense and unpleasant for the whole family; Talk to them regularly and listen to what they have to say.
Look out for your siblings during and after the divorce
If you have siblings, be sure to check in with them and see how they’re coping with the divorce. Whether they’re younger or older than you, they may well be your closest allies in all this, for they can empathise with how the whole experience has affected you. Divorce can cause enough estrangement in the family so it’s important that you maintain and build your relationship with your sibling(s).
Try to avoid losing touch with one parent
Unfortunately, with divorce, it is sometimes the case where one parent ends up moving far away and you don’t get to see them on a daily or even weekly basis. Do your best to maintain contact and avoid estrangement. Even when you’re not able to physically visit them, make an effort to keep in touch by phone, text, etc. Let them know about how you’re getting in school, any sporting or musical achievements, a part-time job, etc. As they say, don’t be a stranger.
Don’t let your parents’ divorce affect other areas of your life
Parents divorcing is a big shock for anyone. It may well take time to process. But don’t let it affect all areas of your life. Even if you find yourself ruminating on the situation, don’t stop doing what you normally would; see your friends, keep up any sports, hobbies, or other extracurricular activities as you always would.
Hopefully, these points have been of help to anyone going through the process of their parents’ divorce. As mentioned, it’s important not to bottle up any feelings and to discuss them with a trusted adult, be it an aunt, uncle, grandparent, teacher, guidance counsellor, etc. And if you do feel that the situation has got out of control or it’s making you feel continually depressed, do consider talking to a professional counsellor. I’m happy to make an appointment for anyone who feels that they need that little extra bit of help in coping with a family divorce.