Troubled Relationships With Teens During Divorce

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The relationship between teens and parents can become troubled during a divorce. The teen years are often stressful, and a divorce can add to that stress. Negative responses to a divorce can lead to behavioral problems, risk-taking, and academic, social and mental health issues. To help prevent or lessen the impact of a troubled relationship with your teen during a divorce, it is important to understand some of the common emotional responses teens have to divorce, and how these responses are likely to effect their behavior.


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A troubled relationship with your teen during a divorce can be characterized by anger, emotional outbursts or a complete lack of communication. A teen may also respond to the added stress of divorce by engaging in behaviors or pastimes that you find objectionable or even dangerous -- such as drinking, a change in social groups, rule breaking, being argumentative or showing disrespect. A troubled relationship with your teen during divorce can also intensify your own stress, leading you to parent in ways that feel unproductive or damaging to your relationship with your teen.

Contributing Factors

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Divorce may result in some disruptive changes in your family life, such as changing residence or school, having less access to one parent and diminished family finances. Experiencing these changes contributes to your teen's anger or depression. According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, poorly managed conflict between parents can also contribute to negative reactions from your child.

Negative Effects

If conflict develops between you and your teen during a divorce, it is possible that your teen is having an extreme reaction to the parental separation. This could lead to your teen experiencing other problems, such as long-term mental health issues, school and peer-related difficulties and issues with romantic relationships. These issues may endure for some time after the divorce and continue to be a contributing factor in poor decision-making abilities, problems in behavior and other issues, so it's important to address your child's difficulties sooner rather than later.

Tips for Management

Healthy communication patterns and parental monitoring can help mitigate or even prevent a troubled relationship between you and your teen during a divorce. According to Jacqueline Kirby, a parenting specialist, recommendations for managing a parent-teen relationship during divorce include maintaining closeness with you teen, avoiding conflict with your spouse, and keeping changes to a minimum. It is also important for parents to avoid letting the stress of divorce take away from the attention they pay to their teen.