Divorce is never easy, but it can be troublesome especially to teens in the family. Adolescence is already a time of great change and social issues that can create anxiety in teens. In addition to dealing with the onset of puberty, social pressures, and keeping up with school responsibilities, your teen children are now compelled to deal with the break-up of the family. This may mean taking the extra time to address how your teenagers are coping with the coming changes to the family structure.
Break the News as a Family
Obviously, you and your spouse are finding it difficult to communicate with one another and that’s making the divorce necessary. Even so, there are still going to be things you’re going to have to do together and breaking the news to your children is one of them. Sit down together and turn off your cell phones to avoid distractions. This is the time for you to explain how the family will be changing, as well as what things will remain the same. You should also invite your children to ask questions about issues that concern them.
This Isn’t Just a Family Matter
While you may prefer not to discuss your personal issues with those outside of the family, being more open about your divorce can help your children. Specifically, it’s a good idea to inform school teachers and counselors, as well as other adult guardians in your teen’s life, about the divorce. This will help them to help your children better and those adults will be more watchful for behavioral changes that may indicate deeper emotional difficulties.
Get a Handle on Those Behavioral Changes
When you are notified that your teenager’s behaviors are changing, addressing them early on is best. Some parents try to let their teenagers cope on their own, believing behavioral problems will fade away. This is rarely the case. Many times, a behavioral problem can worsen and become a habit, if it’s not addressed. Talk to your teenager about the issue and try to find a resolution to the underlying problem.
Make Additional Time for Your Teen
One of the most important things you can do to help your teenager understand that you will always be there for him is to spend more time with him. While having the occasional discussion is also important, you should also be making time for fun with your teenager. Take him hiking, to an amusement park, or to the beach. You can do anything you both will enjoy. The important thing is to set aside distractions, such as your cell phone, and give your teen your undivided attention. Show him that you’re available, whenever he needs you.
Be Wary of Your Comments
A divorce isn’t just emotional for children and teens. It’s also an exhausting experience for the divorcing couple and tempers tend to flare throughout this period. Things may be said in court, or in negotiations, that will hurt your feelings, or upset you. Even so, it’s especially important not to make derogatory comments about your spouse. While you may be arranging to separate from your spouse, that person will always be your child’s parent. Disparaging remarks will make the situation more frustrating for your teenager and may make him feel as though he has to choose between the two of you.
Down the Road
It’s also important to be open about your future relationships, so your teen child understands that the family dynamic will change. While it’s best to avoid becoming involved with a new partner early in the divorce process, you will likely begin dating again in the future. Make sure your teen is prepared for this and understands that you’re not looking for a replacement parent. Instead, explain that the family will be growing to include others and that they will always remain an important part of the family. Attempting to hide a relationship, or spring it on your teen suddenly, can have disastrous results.
Helping Your Teen Cope
It’s also a good idea to arrange for a mentor or counselor to become a steady presence in your teen’s life at this time. They may not always feel comfortable discussing their feelings with you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to share their thoughts. An impartial adult, even a family friend, can become a sounding board and enable your child to vent his feelings.
While these tips can help you create a healthier transition for your teenager, they may sometimes need more help than you can provide. Peer influences and their own adolescent changes can create a higher level of anxiety when coupled with the pressures of divorce. If you’re concerned for your teen, inpatient therapy at Centered Health can help bring emotional balance to your child. Compassionate caregivers will work with your teen and address your concerns for your child in a professional and helpful manner. Contact a Centered Health associate today to learn more about how they can help your child.