For teens, their parents’ divorce can significantly impede their social, emotional and physical well-being. This turning point in their lives can cause feelings of confusion, blame, and even abandonment. It is possible to help your teen cope with divorce with effective co-parenting strategies. Providing teens with consistency, open communication and attention will help them understand and adjust to the household changes divorce brings.
It is likely your teen is old enough to understand how divorce will affect the family dynamic. However, she may be wondering why the divorce is happening to her family. Open the lines of communication so that your teen can ask questions. If she wants to know specifics about the divorce, both parents should provide a simple, yet honest explanation, says Liana Lowenstein, a Toronto-based child psychotherapist. These open dialogues will reassure your teen that the divorce is not her fault and help her feel comfortable talking with both parents about her feelings.
Developmentally Teens are at a stage where they want to establish independence and control over their own lives. Allow your teen to be a part of discussions regarding significant changes brought about because of the divorce. For example, listen to his concerns and suggestions about moving, changing schools or rules and routines. If possible, Lowenstein suggests using consistent rules and discipline at both households; however, your teen can provide input and suggestions. Allow his voice to be heard so he can cope better with the changes.
Keep the Peace
Children of any age should not be exposed to hostile discussions or arguments between parents who are divorcing. Your teen, though, may be affected even more significantly by disagreements because she is betterable to understand the hostility than her younger siblings. As co-parents, do your best to keep the peace. Dealing with divorce is easier for teens when parents get along. Avoid arguing or bitter comments when your children are present and do your best to call a truce for the sake of the children involved.
Attend Activities Together
Teens often feel torn when special events arise that both parents should attend. Your teen may try to keep the peace and hop between both parents at sporting events, recitals and school activities. Eliminate the awkwardness by showing your teen that both parents can get along and be present at the same events. Instead of sitting on opposite ends of the field or gym, sit relatively close together so your teen does not feel torn between the two of you. Resist the urge to skip the event because you want to avoid seeing your ex. Your teen needs the support and presence of both parents when celebrating his accomplishments.
Seek Out Resources
Divorce can cause undue stress for teens. Even though you may think she can share her feelings with both parents, she may be more comfortable talking with a friend, a school counselor or a professional therapist. Seek out professionals to give your teen the opportunity to express her concerns and feelings. If possible, locate a teen group through a social services agency or local church so that your teen can bond with other adolescents who are also coping with the divorce of their parents.