The teen years are difficult enough without having a divorce thrown into the mix as well. Teens typically react to divorce in two ways: (1) being stoic and keeping their feelings in so as not to upset their parents, or (2) being angry at the world. To help your teen navigate the difficulties of divorce and its impact on the family, keep these tips in mind:
- Be the adult.
Older kids often feel they need to play a parental role in comforting parents who are going through a divorce. They may feel responsible for being the “peacemaker” between their parents as well. Don’t let them fall into this trap by keeping them out of the middle of your divorce and supporting them as you always have as Mom and Dad. Enlist the help of other adults in their lives — teachers, coaches, etc. — by letting those adults know about the divorce so your teen doesn’t have to shoulder the responsibility of breaking the news.
- Address changes in behavior immediately.
If your teen’s behavior changes, you may wonder if it’s normal teen angst or if the divorce has triggered the behavior change. You need to deal with these behaviors right away so they don’t become a pattern or get worse.
- Give them access to a neutral third party.
Your teen needs to be able to discuss his or her fears and disappointment with an adult who is a neutral third party. This can be a family friend or a therapist who can listen to them and then gently give them a reality check.
- Look for changes.
If your teen has become self-destructive — drinking, taking drugs, cutting — this is an indication they could be self-medicating to dull their pain. Deal with it immediately.
- Provide your undivided attention.
There will be times that your teen needs your undivided attention, which means you need to put aside your own trauma (as well as your cell phone) and give it to them. Provide them with opportunities to open up to you by doing activities like taking a walk or shopping together. Don’t pressure them to talk to you — the best talks usually happen when doing daily activities together.
- Put dating on the back burner.
Most teens feel uncomfortable when it comes to their parents dating, especially when dates turn into sleepovers. Don’t expose your teen to new boyfriends or girlfriends until the divorce has been finalized and enough time has passed for everyone to get comfortable with the new routine.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often proves crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.