Teens and Divorce

Divorce is hard on everyone.  Teens are no different.  It causes a lot of upset in what they have known among all the other life changes they are experiencing just by growing up and finding their identity.  During a divorce they are often struck by financial hardship, possibly a move to a different residence, in a different neighborhood, and a change in family roles.  Teens of divorce are often more likely to have difficulties in school, be more sexually active, be more aggressive, anxious, withdrawn, and depressed, as well as be more likely to abuse substances and partake in delinquent acts.

There are some things parents can do to help their adolescent better adjust:

  • Don’t stop being a parent.  Avoid being their “friend” and turning them into your confidant.  Allow them to remain a teen by remaining their parent.
  • Provide warmth and support.  Assist with problems, provide encouragement.
  • Set and explain standards.  Monitor and enforce discipline.
  • Never talk badly about your ex or their new significant other in front of your child.  That only hurts the child.
  • Spend time with your teen.  This is harder if you are the non-custodial parent, but make as much effort as possible.  Take them to lunch, go to their school events, text them daily with a “Hi” or “I love you.”  This instills a sense of value.
  • Don’t pit one parent against the other.  This just leaves the teen feeling caught in the middle.  Agree on parenting rules.  If you hear, “Mom gives me money” or “Dad doesn’t make me do that”, that is a sign that your child is being pulled in different directions.

Be aware of your own adjustment or becoming depressed.  Seek help from a professional if needed.  Likewise, allow your child the opportunity to see someone.  Chances are they know someone else who has sought counseling after their own parents’ divorce.