How can you help your teen cope with your impending divorce?
Divorce can do much more than significantly alter the life of a family. It can also affect children in ways that last well into adulthood. Divorcing parents often neglect their children by failing to acknowledge how divorce affects them emotionally.
While children may outwardly show little to no reaction during the initial stages of divorce, anger and frustration often build up over time. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to this anger and frustration despite being taught to focus on themselves rather than their parents’ problems.
In short, an impending divorce can significantly increase a teenager’s stress. Let’s dive into some of the reasons why.
What happens during a divorce?
For starters, it’s important to know what exactly happens during a divorce. When a married couple decides to end their marriage through a divorce agreement, there are two main types: fault and no-fault divorce.
A no-fault divorce is when a marriage ends through circumstances beyond the control of either spouse. A fault divorce is when there has been misconduct on the part of one or both spouses. While both types of divorce can negatively affect a teenager’s wellbeing, a fault divorce tends to be the most problematic.
A fault type of divorce tends to put more stress on families and leads to other problems that occur during a divorce, such as division of property, child support payments, and custody of children. When parents fight over these things, it can put a lot of stress on their teens, especially if they are asked to choose sides.
How a teenager might feel during a divorce
Prior to being in an “impending” situation, teens might not have noticeable stress levels to themselves or others. They might be a bit moody and tense, but they can probably go about their regular days like it’s nothing.
However, once the divorce is looming, teenagers may start to feel anxious and overwhelmed with the amount of change in their lives. This change can be overwhelming for them both on a personal level and an emotional level.
Teenagers may begin having outbursts of anger and sadness that were not present before. They will also likely begin feeling much guiltier than they did before because they might feel like it is their fault in the back of their mind.
They may also lash out at one parent or another if they feel it is warranted. For example, if a teenager believes their father did something wrong during the marriage—such as cheating on their mother—they may take out their anger and frustration on him once it is announced that they are divorcing.
Conversely, if the teenager is close to their father and believes that he has done nothing wrong in the relationship, they may end up taking out their feelings of anger and sadness on their mother. They might put all the blame on their mother, but in reality, it might not be anyone’s fault.
Helping your teen relax
It can be hard for parents to relax during a divorce, so it might be even harder for them to help their teenagers relax. Here are a few tips that can help them get back on track.
- Remind them everything is going to be okay
- Listen when they want to talk about their pain and anger
- Encourage them to spend time doing things they enjoy
- Send them positive and encouraging texts
- Try not to take out your own anger and frustration on them
- Don’t make decisions for them without discussing it
- Talk about what is ahead of you as a family, even if there will be bumps along the way
Keeping these tips in mind can help to keep your teenager relaxed and grounded while going through the divorce. While it might seem like an impossible task, it is one that you should try your hardest to achieve.
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Contributor: Trevor McDonald