Divorce is one of the most traumatic and stressful events a person can undergo in their lifetime, and we’re not just talking about the two individuals involved in the divorce. Divorce affects a wide circle of people involved and around the former marriage – but probably none more so than the children of the divorcing couple. Divorce is a literal break in their world, and no matter how amicable the split may appear to be, the consequences can be serious. Teenagers in particular may struggle with a divorce due to their unique emotional development in life – they are much more mature and aware of their emotions than younger children, but also lack the long-term vision to process those emotions. Teens who experience a traumatic or unpleasant divorce may harbor long term effects, so taking special precautions to help them successfully navigate a divorce is critical.
5 Ways to Navigate Divorce With Teens in the Home
- Let Them Be Teens. It is absolutely critical that you continue to treat and expect your child to be their age – and only their age. Do not rely on them emotionally, or confide in them. Displays of emotion are normal, but do not cry or “unload” on them repeatedly. Do not expect them to “step up” to fill adult responsibilities in the home regardless of the missing parent.
- Consistent Time-Sharing. While everything is changing, they need to know that their parents are still around and are still reliable. As much as possible, honor time-sharing and custody agreements even if they are inconvenient. It sends the message that both parents are around and committed.
- Maintain Rules & Boundaries. Often it can be tempting to relax standards during a stressful divorce. You may think it will help to let your teen spend more time with friends or come home a little later or get a bit lazy with schoolwork, but the consistency of expectations will actually provide more support and better results.
- Co-Parent with a United Front. Teens test boundaries; it’s what they do. They may try to play one parent against the other, or get away with something on dad’s watch that mom would NEVER allow. Be sure to keep honest, caring communication with the other parent about your teen and share a united front when it comes to parenting, expectations, and discipline.
- Listen & Talk without Judgement. Keep lines of communication constantly open, and give them opportunities to share feelings and concerns with you. it’s critical, however, that you make it about THEM when they talk to you – not about you or the other parent. Do not try to turn them against the other parent, complain, judge, or express any negativity. Simply listen, validate, and answer questions honestly and without judgement where possible.
Helping your teen navigate a divorce is absolutely critical to their emotional well-being. Teens without stable home lives or emotional connections often experience more serious problems that can affect their future. If your teen is struggling to navigate a divorce or handle family issues then professional help from a residential treatment program may be a solution. Do not ignore the needs of your teen or assume that they’ll “bounce back” or handle it – carefully do your best to support them and find help if needed.