When a couple decides to get a divorce, it affects more than just the two of them if they have children. And if any of those children are teenagers, there could be more complications since teens are between childhood and becoming an adult.
It’s always a good idea not to hide an impending divorce from any child old enough to know something is going on in their world. However, when it comes to teenagers, they especially know their parents are having problems and it could make them withdraw if things are not explained fully to them.
It is best for both parents to hold a meeting with their teens and tell them about what is going on and how it is to be handled. Hopefully, the divorce can be done in a way that won’t cause too much stress and strain, and you both can separate peacefully.
Teens don’t want to be embarrassed by their parents’ problems, so they want to think they are in control of what’s to become of their schedule, i.e. who will they live with? Can they choose? Do they have to change schools? Etc.
Even so, you are likely to get a strong, and perhaps a temperamental reaction to the announcement of divorce. Young kids likely will cry and be hurt, while a teen may react in the opposite fashion and get angry and lash out at their parents for ruining their lives.
If that’s the case, now is not the time to yell back. Instead, try to understand how they feel and be ready to answer any of their questions when they are ready to ask them more calmly.
Try to keep a normal schedule for them if possible, and let them know you still love them and the divorce isn’t their fault but is something between you and your spouse. Be sure not to make any promises you can’t keep and above all, don’t pit one spouse against the other.
Whatever you and your spouse are divorcing for, your teen likely still loves both of you and it is not fair to them to badmouth the other spouse in this horrible time.
In some situations, the teen may be happy or relieved from one side of things if there has been a lot of fighting or arguing up to this point. However, that doesn’t mean they are happy their parents are getting separated exactly, they are just happy to not have to be stuck in the middle listening to the fighting and arguing.
You should also give the teen’s school a heads-up about the situation. If your child gets really stressed out it could cause their grades to drop or they could act out at school and this way their school won’t blame them for what is going on. Plus, the school may even have a counselor the teen can talk to about the whole situation.
And just because your teen is a bit older, you shouldn’t tell them the intimate details of why you and your spouse are separating, if the reason has anything to do with sex or another party breaking up the marriage, it’s nothing to burden your child about. It’s your problem and yours alone! They have enough to do with figuring out their feelings and emotions when their parents are getting a divorce.
And don’t try to use your teen as a go-between you and your spouse as that isn’t fair either. They don’t need that kind of burden and should be left totally out of your conflict. Just love them and let them know that it is something you and your spouse have to deal with and whatever happens you both will still love and respect your teens and other children no matter what.
Let them know exactly what to expect, i.e. if one spouse is moving out, when that is to happen, etc. Don’t ask them to take sides, and try not to fight with your spouse in front of them. Divorce is a stressful time and kids of all ages need to process it and don’t need extra issues to make things worse.
Even if they may think they are adults, they are still kids. Don’t try to treat them like a little adult because they are still immature emotionally even if their bodies may seem like they are adults. And divorce could cause them to regress and even act younger than usual for a time, and they will need your love and support to get them back into a stable time.
Teenagers process divorce details a bit differently than their younger siblings. They are at the age when they are trying to separate themselves into their soon-to-be separate lives from their folks, so if their parents are divorcing, this complicates that plan. Plus, it could sour them on having relationships on their own in the future so it’s vital for them to understand that just because their parents are getting a divorce it doesn’t mean they are doomed to never have a love of their own.
All in all, divorce is a situation that’s stressful for the entire family, especially when kids of any age are involved. Teens are not stupid, they likely could tell something was wrong long before you both admit to getting separated, so you can’t hide it from them. Just love and respect them and try to understand how they feel, and hopefully, they will settle down in time and learn how to deal with your divorce, and that way it won’t ruin their lives in the future.
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