Divorce can have serious negative effects on teenagers
Because they are older and more mature, it might seem that adolescents are better able to cope with their parents’ separation and divorce than younger children. This belief is so common that people may wait until their kids are teenagers before initiating a divorce. But divorce and parental separation are a major crisis for children of any age and it can be particularly disruptive for teenagers.
Adolescence is a time of physical and emotional changes. Fluctuating hormones can make them act erratically. One moment they are child-like and the next they behave very maturely. They often hide their feelings from their parents or they may become angry and upset. Teenagers can easily become depressed or euphoric. And, that’s just normal behavior. Add divorce to the mix and you can have a very volatile situation. But good parenting and good communication can help your teenager cope with the divorce process.
Strategies to help teens cope with divorce
With a proactive strategy to help your teen adjust to the stress of divorce, it’s possible to build a relationship with your teen that is even stronger than before the divorce. Here are some things you can do to help your teen adjust to your divorce:
- Inform the important adults in your teen’s life that you are getting a divorce. It’s a lot less stressful if your teen does not have to repeatedly tell people about the divorce. You should explain the situation to teachers, coaches, relatives and other adults. Let the school know about custody arrangements and if only one or both parents will need copies of test scores, grades, etc.
- If you notice behavioral changes, address them right away. Changes can indicate or lead to a substance abuse problem. If your teen is acting out in class or at home, you need to determine what is triggering the behavior and find a way to address it.
- Listen and let your child talk. Your teen should have your undivided attention when he/she is expressing their feelings. No matter how emotional it is, it’s still communication. Though it may be difficult, try not to interrupt and don’t glance at your smartphone. It’s sometimes easier to talk while doing an activity together, such as taking a walk or cooking a meal.
- Have a neutral third party or therapist. There are sometimes behaviors or feelings that you cannot address with your teen. A neutral third party, such as a close family friend, grandparent, or counselor, can be an outlet for your teen where they feel safe to communicate their feelings of fear, anger and disappointment. A third party who is non-judgmental can help your teen discuss what is going on in their life. Therapists and other third parties help teens deal with their emotions and develop constructive relationships after their parents divorce.
- Try to keep a routine. Although they may appear to want independence and to create their own boundaries. Subconsciously, teens may also want their parents to impose structure and routine. Routines can feel comforting and safe. You can plan enjoyable activities such as regular trips to an amusement park, sporting events, festivals, or the movies. Create a dinnertime routine. You might even have a special restaurant where you can eat together once a week.
There are many other strategies that can help your teen cope with your divorce. Above all, be sure to acknowledge their feelings and reinforce that you divorced their parent, not them.
New Brunswick, NJ lawyer focuses on both divorce and estate planning
With many years of experience in both divorce law and family law, Attorney Steven Cytryn helps Central New Jersey families dealing with the impacts of divorce. Contact the Law Offices of Steven M. Cytryn online or at (732) 214-1103 to speak with a family law attorney in New Jersey.