We recently discussed advice for parents eager to help their young children through divorce. Now, let's turn our attention towards teenagers. Though you might think things are simpler when dealing with older children who understand the concept of divorce and what is happening, that is not necessarily true.
All children, regardless of their age, can have difficulty processing divorce and the fact that the child is older and understands more may actually make it even harder. Keep reading to learn how to help your teenager through divorce.
Teens, like all children, worry about what the demise of their parents' relationship will mean for them. The best way to tackle this anxiety is to be open and honest. Prepare yourself to answer your teenager's questions, including questions over custody and living arrangements, visitation, school, etc. Though you should not divulge every painful detail of the divorce, teens are old enough to understand what's happening and may even have ideas about why. Rather than keep them in the dark, explain to them what is happening and how they can expect their lives to change, giving them a chance to prepare for the changes that are sure to come.
Allow time to process
Teens, more than younger children, will need to wrestle with the issue on their own. Their reactions can be wide ranging, from anger, sadness, grief or even seeming positivity (often an attempt to make it easier on the parents). Your child may want space to think or time to talk. Either way, respect the choice and be prepared to talk whenever your teenager is ready. Sometimes the reactions may be negative; if so, roll with the punches. Let your child know you hear them and that you understand. Often, simply acknowledging their feelings and making them believe those feelings are important is enough to diffuse anger and sadness.
Avoid conflict with your ex
Though divorce can be an emotional process, it is important that you avoid arguments with your ex in front of your teenager. Older children understand what is going on and are more likely to notice trash talking and other destructive behavior between parents. Having to experience your parents fighting can take a toll on your teens, making them feel vulnerable and adding to their own stress about the divorce. Try to keep the fighting away from the children and remain as civil as possible in their presence, it'll go a long way to helping your kid cope.