Teenagers And Divorce
Helpful Strategies for Helping Teens Cope
There is no way around it. Divorce is a very difficult situation to navigate – especially when children are involved. The breakup of a family can be challenging at any age, however, for adolescents it can be an especially troubling or even traumatic experience. Many parents going through a separation or divorce may notice changes in their teen’s behavior during and after the divorce. This leaves parents wondering if these behaviors are just part of being a normal teenager or if they are a reaction to what is going on in the family. While often there isn’t an easy or simple answer to this question, there are several ways to help your children cope with and adapt to the many changes that come with a separation or divorce.
How To Tell Your Teen
The first step, and often one of the most difficult as a parent, is telling your teen that you and your partner are ending the relationship. Even if it is uncomfortable, it is very important that both parents are present during this discussion. One of the purposes of having this difficult conversation is to let your teen know that both parents will continue to be there as a support for him/her no matter what. Because teenagers are old enough to understand what divorce is and why it happens, it is best to be open, honest and direct with them from the start. Often times, teens have been aware of the deteriorating relationship well before they are informed about the decision to separate, so it may not even come as a surprise. However, it is important to keep in mind that depending on the situation, some information about the divorce may not need to be discussed in intimate detail.
Another important thing to communicate to your teen is reassurance that even though you and your partner are separating, both of you will continue to be there for them as a parent. Teens may also wonder if they were the cause of the split. You will want to make sure to explain that the decision to divorce had nothing to do with them. It was a decision made between you and your partner and they are not in any way responsible for it.
This conversation will more than likely be an ongoing one that lasts for an indeterminate amount of time. Expect a vast range of emotions, from tears to anger, and be ready to answer your teen’s questions and concerns as openly and compassionately as possible.
Even Playing Field – No Sides!
If there is one thing that cannot be stressed enough, it is the importance of making sure that your teen does not feel that they need to pick sides in the divorce. Even if you are very angry towards your ex-partner, this anger is not your teen’s to harbor against the other parent. It may be that your teen takes a certain parent’s side as a result of their own anger. If this is the case then allow them the space to work through these emotions without providing more fuel for them. They may also blame one parent for the divorce. Although it may feel unfair and evoke anger or frustration, it is important to hear your teen out, not take the accusations personally, and respond empathically and patiently.
Professional Help – Psychotherapy
Divorce can completely shake up a teen’s life. Sometimes seeking professional guidance may provide them with the support they need during this especially challenging period of time. Meeting with a therapist and having the space to talk about what is going on for them can be a valuable and much needed outlet for your teen. A therapist can provide a safe and neutral environment where they feel comfortable sharing and exploring all of the different feelings and emotions that are coming up in response to the divorce or separation.
In my practice, located in Hermosa Beach, CA, my goal is to create a safe place where teens feel comfortable and supported. I aim to help begin the process of understanding and healing by helping my clients work through their feelings and emotions. If you would like to learn more about me and how I may be able to help your teenager, please feel free to contact me at (310) 892 – 2572 or email me.
About Dr. Kelly Mothner
To learn more about the services I offer click here. My office is centrally located in Hermosa Beach, California and I provide therapy and counseling services for children, teens, adults and couples in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo, Torrance and all over the South Bay area. Please feel free to contact me!