Divorce can have far-reaching and lasting effects across the entire family unit. It’s not a pleasant experience for anyone involved; it can be a trauma in itself. Parents going through a divorce are no doubt experiencing a range of emotions. In the middle of this, it’s important for parents not to lose sight of the effects divorce can have on their children, including teenagers. Adolescence has enough turmoil and changes going on as it is; throwing a parental divorce into the mix doesn’t help these matters. Therefore, it’s important to help your teen cope with the effects of your divorce, and be mindful of the effects it can have on them. Let’s look at some steps you can take as a parent going through a divorce.
Encourage your teen to talk about how the divorce is affecting them
A family divorce can have a multitude of effects on your teen’s life beyond that of the home situation. For example, a teen may fear that they won’t see one parent often (or at all) if they move to another location. Conversely, they may worry that they’ll have to move away with one parent, change school and never see their friends again. It’s important to let your teen talk about how they feel about all this. Ensure them that they are being listened to and that you understand the effects that your divorce is having on them.
Reassure them that you love them no matter what
Your teen must understand that the divorce is between you and your ex. Make sure that they know that your love for them is unconditional and that just because you no longer want to be with your ex doesn’t mean that you want to cut them off too.
Avoid becoming estranged from your teen
While it may be the case that you end up moving away from your teen and only get to see them on certain days or perhaps weeks, prioritise time for them when you can. Maintain regular contact, be it by phone, text, etc. Ask them about how they’re getting in school, or any other activities they may engage in. Do your best to turn up for their sports games or musical recitals, etc. Estrangement is something feared by parents and children alike and these steps will help you avoid that occurring.
Watch out for signs that your teen is struggling with the effects of your divorce
Even if your teen hasn’t specifically brought up that the divorce is causing them distress, it’s important to be wary that this may be the case. Look out for signs. Maybe your teen has become withdrawn, they’ve stopped doing activities that they usually enjoy, or their eating habits have changed for the worse. Do they appear to be down all the time? Or perhaps they’re acting out of character. Look for signs of your teen resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms, lashing out, or engaging in risky behaviour.
Don’t force your teen to “choose a side” in the divorce
The effects of divorce are stressful enough for teens. Do not add to this by pitting them between you and your former partner. Do not argue in front of your children, it will only cause more upset in an already fretful situation. Do not force them to choose one parent over the other. Do not try to turn them against your ex. No good will come from this. It will only serve to increase your teenager’s anxieties and frustrations.
Avoid talking negatively about your former partner in front of your teen
Look. There may well be valid reasons for your divorce. You of course should discuss them with trusted friends and perhaps other adult relatives. However, please avoid doing so in front of, or with, your children. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, forcing a teen to choose a side in the divorce does no good for anyone and neither will trying to negatively influence them against their other parent.
I hope that these points have been of help to anyone who is struggling with the impact a divorce is having on their children. To summarise, it’s important to maintain bonds with your teen, to keep an active interest in their life, and not to try to pit them against your former partner during and after a divorce. It’s also vitally important to keep an eye out for signs that they may be struggling with the effects of your divorce. If you do feel that your teen needs that extra bit of help in handling the situation, it may be worth encouraging them to see a professional counsellor. Please feel free to contact me to see if I can help with the situation.