Helping Your Teen Deal with Divorce
Teenagers have an especially difficult time with divorce. Already dealing with the stress of adolescence, it can feel as if the world is falling apart when the break up of their parents is added to the emotional mix.
You can help your teenager deal with the changes that lie ahead. Experts stress that teens desperately needs the equal support of both parents. Try to see the divorce through their eyes. Encourage him or him to talk about their feelings. Be prepared for emotions ranging from anger, sadness, loneliness, to depression. If you notice your teen withdrawing from the family, having difficulty concentrating or engaging in high risk behaviors, get them professional help immediately.
How to help your teens deal with divorce:
- Never criticize your ex in front of your teen. Your child knows you and can tell if you mean what you say. For her sake, control your nonverbal cues so that they do not contradict what you are trying to portray. Rolled eyes, smirks, slamming doors, in response to an ex are interpreted correctly by your teen. More than younger kids, teens grow very tired of fighting and see parents who engage in bickering and name calling as immature or even worse. Take the high road.
- Maintain a calm, positive attitude in front of your child. Not to say they can’t ever see you upset but the usual atmosphere of your home should be a positive environment. As the adult, you have the power to set the tone for your home.
- Establish and stick to a realistic and normal daily routine. Teens deal better with stress if they can maintain a degree of predictability. In their minds, it’s quite different when they bend the rules and they probably will, but they need to know what the usual routine is and what is expected of them.
- Anticipate signs of stress. Watch for signs of depression and take seriously any talk of suicide. Notice changes in eating habits or sleeping patterns or if they have a diminished interest in people or the activities they used to love. Remain lovingly firm about behaviors that are not acceptable but give generous amounts of support, reassurance and understanding. If need be, seek professional assistance.
- Encourage your teen to talk about her feelings but be prepared for questioning, criticism and maybe for the first time, your teen’s disappointment in you.
- Talk to the other adult’s in your child’s life to ask how they interpret how your teen is responding to the divorce. You may be surprised to learn that your teen behaves differently around others than she does at home.
- Your teen may become very possessive of you and may be threatened by new relationships you form particularly of the opposite sex. So remind them that they are and always will be very important to you.
- Make time for your teen. Take them out, just the two of you, and enjoy something they enjoy. Let them know you are interested in how they are doing.
- Set consistent limits that are balanced with more freedom and choices.
- Allow them to have input about visitation, but not so much that the teen is burdened by having to decide custody and access schedules.