There are several books that can help parents to better understand how to help their teenagers during divorce. In her book Growing Up Divorced, author Linda Franke indicates that teenagers are easier to deal with than younger children because they have already begun to gain independence from their parents and have some stability of their own. Ms. Franke emphasizes that it is important to be totally honest with teenage children as to why the marriage failed. If it was caused by an extramarital affair, alcoholism, mental illness or abuse, teenagers should be told; however, they should be spared the gruesome details. If teenagers already sense these problems, it will confirm their feelings and suspicions.
Because teenagers are entering the age when meaningful interpersonal relationships are likely to develop, it is extremely important to handle these issues properly at the time of the divorce. If teenagers emerge from the divorce feeling that interpersonal relationships are not worth the effort, their own meaningful relationships will be disrupted. On the other hand, if teenagers realize that the dissolution of the parents’ marriage was related only to the relationship between the two and is not a generalization applicable to all relationships, they are more likely to be able to sustain meaningful relationships. It is extremely important to reassure your children that you love them and that they did not cause the divorce.
Other books that may help you understand the effects of divorce on teenagers are Parental Divorce and Adolescents by Rex Forehand, The Effects of Marital Disruption on Adolescence by Abbie K. Frost & Bilge Pakiz, and Co-Parenting in the Second Year After Divorce by Eleanor Macoby.
– Rossana Mitchell, Esq., Law Offices of Rossana Mitchell
Divorce and Teenagers
Tips for Helping Your Child Through Divorce
1. Don’t try to take on the role of two parents. Be yourself.
2. Do not ask your child to communicate to your ex-spouse on your behalf.
3. Don’t ask your child to take sides.
4. Encourage your teen to maintain existing relationships with family members, such as uncles, aunts, and grandparents, from both sides of the family.
5. Keep a close eye on your teen. Look for signs of depression or anger, and realize that your teen may need to talk to someone (besides you) about what is happening. Seek professional therapy for your child if you have any concerns about their emotional well-being.
6. Don’t use your child as your support group. Get professional help if you need it.