Divorce is difficult enough for adults. When it comes to teens -- the aftermath of their parents’ divorce can send them in a downward spiral of depression. For teenagers, watching their father leave and divorce their mother affects them like the death of a family member, according to HealthyChildren.org, the official website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Teens go through a mourning period over the loss of their complete family and changes in their daily life. How well your teen recovers can depend on you and your ex-spouse.
Communication From Parents
During and after divorce, parents should communicate clearly and honestly with their teen. It's best when parents deliver the news of a divorce together. If your husband left without helping to explain the situation to your daughter, you should deliver the news in a straightforward manner, without bashing her father or giving any false hopes of reconciliation. You should emphasize that your husband left because of issues between the two of you, and that it has nothing to do with her. Probably, she will have many questions and it is OK to tell her when you don't know the answers. You do need to emphasize that you and her father will always love her.
Whatever arrangements divorcing parents make for child custody and visitation, they should honor them. Most teens in single-parent households live with their mother. Data from a 2012 U.S. Census Bureau survey shows that 27.8 percent of teens age 15 to 19 lived in a home with a single mother, compared to only 8.2 percent with a single father. Some fathers fail to exercise all of their visitation rights as a noncustodial parent, and so they then may drift out of their teen's life. This can lead to feelings of abandonment, behavioral issues and mental health problems, according to the article, “Co-Parenting after Divorce,” in Psychology Today.
Often, a divorce creates a huge upheaval in a teen's standard of living. Families who went through a divorce in the past year are more likely to live in poverty and to live in a rental home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If your husband was the primary breadwinner, his leaving may force you to change jobs or work longer hours. When there are so many things changing for your teen that you cannot control, try to avoid imposing any unnecessary changes on him. Try to keep some of the same daily routines and avoid rushing into new dating relationships.
Depression in teens is a serious problem. Around one in five teens experience depression, according the National Institutes of Health. Going through a traumatic life event such as the divorce of parents puts your teen at even more risk. Symptoms of depression include withdrawing from others, fatigue, irritability and feeling sad most of the time. Your teen may also change her eating and sleeping habits or start engaging in risky behaviors. If your teen's symptoms last two weeks or longer, seek medical attention. If you are worried that your teen is considering suicide, immediately call your doctor or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- HealthyChildren.org: Divorce: How to Help Your Teenager
- Psychology Today: Co-Parenting After Divorce: Father Absence, Father Deficit, Father Hunger
- HelpGuide.org: Teen Depression: A Guide for Parents
- MedlinePlus: Recognizing Teen Depression
- United States Census Bureau: American Fact Finder: Characteristics of Teenagers 15 to 19 Years Old
- United States Census Bureau: Marital Events of Americans: 2009
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images