Raising even well-behaved teenagers can challenge the mettle of the strongest parents. Parenting a troubled teen amplifies that problem many times over. If a couple divorce, bringing up a troubled teen seems nearly impossible. Fortunately, available resources help parents give their teens the firm-but-loving arm they need to transition into productive adults even if the parents have dissolved their own marital relationship.
Divorce Statistics and Teens
Divorce has ravaged the foundations of many American families. Over half of children will witness their parents splitting up. The stress of a ruptured family can cause problems even for well-functioning teens, let alone for young people already going through psychological and emotional challenges. Studies state that teens from divorced families are three times as likely to need psychological help within a given year as those with married parents. Other studies find that teens from divorced families have lower grades, on average, and often face relationship challenges with their peers. Perhaps most shocking of all, some studies suggest that divorce has a greater disruption on a teen’s development than even the death of a parent. Admittedly, sometimes families cannot avoid a divorce. But if circumstances require a divorce, parents must still be mindful of the challenges facing them going forward in order to prepare to keep their teens on a healthy developmental path.
A Step-by-Step Strategy to Parent Teens
Divorced parents should still strive to work together when co-parenting their teens. Just because their marriage has ended doesn’t mean they no longer need the other person to help raise their young person. They can take the following steps:
Find common goals. Whatever differences of opinion they might have, they can seek common ground as a foundation on which they can build.
Look for ways to relate with their teens, who will likely have to process anger and rebellion.
Do not come down too hard on them. Wielding an iron fist over adolescents doesn’t work in united families and is an even greater recipe for disaster in divorced families.
Working through the Rough Patches
Parents facing the daunting task of co-parenting after a divorce can take comfort in knowing that many resources are available to them. Family counseling can provide a lifesaving option for some and can help families sort out their feelings about the divorce. In addition, therapy can create guidelines to develop a plan for moving forward and prepare them to accept that failures will occur. Not everything will go according to plan, and sometimes, one party will make a mistake. While everyone should strive to do their best, accepting failures is an essential part of moving past upsetting incidents. Most importantly, therapies can empower family members to make commitments and then honor them consistently. Having an outlet that forces accountability can keep the family on the right path.
Handling Financial Stress
Managing finances can prove a major roadblock to a unified front after a divorce. The costs of raising a child aren’t cheap, and they don’t go down just because a marriage ends. Adding in the needed therapies only increases the cost. Parents need to have a financial plan that works for both parties. Both parents need to contribute but don’t reduce what each party offers to mere monetary amounts. Not every parent has the money to give equally. However, parents should not use finances as a bullying tactic for the other parent nor should a lack of financial resources excuse a parent from finding other ways to contribute. The parents need to have a sit-down and take a hard look at what each can contribute to raising the teen so that they can proceed together.
Put Your Child’s Needs First
These solutions require two parents who are willing to put their teens’ needs first. Sometimes one parent in a divorce refuses to make compromises and work with the other parent. This frustrates both parties, which will pass down to the teens. For troubled teens, this can ignite an even more rebellious streak. If one parent refuses to work together, the other parent needs to tread with caution. While you might consider legal options, these can often worsen the situation, leading to stress on all sides. The cooperative parent also needs to avoid adding fuel to the fire. Sometimes, you might need to distance yourself and avoid unneeded confrontations. This doesn’t mean giving free passes or being a doormat to an ex-spouse. But averting unneeded conflict will minimize the teen’s stress. Also, as with the teen, setting clear and consistent expectations can often work to force uncooperative parents to step up for their children. Of course, no suggestions work in every situation, but if you keep a level head and focus on what best fulfills the needs of the teens, you can more easily navigate the conflicts of divorce with an uncooperative parent.
Consider Therapeutic Boarding School
When it comes to troubled teens, what worked for united families can still work for divorced families. Therapeutic boarding schools offer many productive options for families. Perhaps removal from the immediate parental conflict will allow healing to take place in your troubled teen. In addition, these institutions can provide academic and relational benefits. Teens shouldn’t feel like boarding school is a punishment for their parents’ divorce. Many teens blame themselves for the split. Don’t make this feeling worse by sending them away without cause. If you do send your teen to a therapeutic boarding school, they need to know that this isn’t a punishment.
Reassure Your Teen of Your Love
Divorce isn’t easy on anyone but the principles of raising healthy teens remain the same for any parents. Strength, consistency and love can ease a myriad of behavior problems. Parents will need to discipline their teens and might need to call for outside help. Whatever the problems faced, parents should work together and evaluate their resources to determine the best way to proceed. Even in the most challenging situations, reassure your child that you love him and want to work together to find solutions to his problems. No matter how troubled your teen is, focusing on his needs can keep divorced parents on the right path.