TEENS AND DIVORCE
For teens, their parents' divorce can have a significant impact on their life.They feel alone and unsure of the future, and they experience a wide range of emotions. They can feel guilty, thinking that their parents' divorce would not have happened had they argued less or made better grades. They can feel loneliness and depression when their parents are too involved in their own emotions to notice them. Others may have difficulty with dating relationships and sexuality as they see their parents starting new relationships.
They feel protective of parent or the other, they may blame one parent over the other or try to play both parents against each other. They also could feel relieved if there was a lot of conflict. Whatever the case may be their feelings are real and troublesome. It is important to emphasize to teens that parents divorce for many reasons, some of which are related to problems that have existed for years, and that the decision had nothing to do with them. It is also important to emphasize that the parents aren't divorcing THEM. Let them know that you still love them and will continue to be involved in their lives.
One of the most important things divorced parents of teens can do is to maintain consistency in rules between the two households as much as possible. This is a significant component of co-parenting: parents working together to support and monitor their children after they are divorced.
Effective co-parenting involves helping with anything when needed, providing encouragement about grades, and enforcing discipline in a consistent manner. If one parent doesn't cooperate with the other about rules and discipline thinking they are being the teens 'buddy' are actually creating confusion and uncertainty that could cause their teen to act out.
Divorced parents of teens should speak positively of the other parent and avoid putting them in the middle of conflicts or disagreements, regardless of their personal feelings. Fathers need to remain consistently involved in teens' activities, and continue providing warmth and support in whatever way is needed. Both parents should talking to their teen about their own feelings regarding the divorce. Doing so could result in your teen's feeling responsible for YOU. Remember ....you are the parent. They should not feel responsible for your well being. Avoid using visitation rights as a bargaining tool with your teen - it will undermine their confidence in you as a parent and strain your relationship.
Be aware of your own adjustment to divorce, and of the grief process that people go through after the loss of a marriage relationship. Don't let your anger or sadness spill over into your relationship with your teen. Seek counseling or a divorce support group for yourself if you are having difficulty adjusting to the loss. Be alert to any changes in your teen's life; Any changes in grades or changes in the people they choose for friends can be a signal to you to pay closer attention. Any adjustment problems your teen may have are most likely to occur within two years after the divorce. Those who seem to be adjusting "too well", saying "I'm cool with it" or "it's no big deal" may be in denial about the divorce. It may be too soon for them to fully grasp that their parents are divorced Keep in mind that each teen is an individual and will adjust at their own rate.
Remember that your teen needs to maintain relationships with extended family members, including your ex-spouse's family members; do whatever you can to support and reinforce those bonds. Remember also to keep your promises, expressed and implied. It's easy to make more or unrealistic promises when your teen is hurting after divorce - don't compound the problems.
Here is a few other things to avoid with your teen after divorce:
*Don't use them as a spy or messenger regarding the other parent
*Don't use them as a weapon in conflict or visitation issues
*Don't argue with your spouse when the teen can hear you
*Make it a point to have family time
*Be available to listen even if they are angry and blaming you
*Talk about the future
*Reassure them about money issues and be honest about them
Most teens will eventually adapt to their parents' divorce and will develop a more realistic understanding of finances. They will also have an opportunity to develop more maturity that comes with more responsibilities after their parents' diovorce. Remember that kids learn what they live, and you are their role model, especially after divorce. They have the opportunity to learn that problems happen in life, but we can respond to them in positive mature ways.