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Supporting Your Teenager During Separation and Divorce

The stress of divorce strikes everyone at one time or another during the process, but teenagers can compound the emotional upheaval at home. 

As one therapist puts it, teenagers are in the middle of figuring out their identities as humans, and divorce throws a wrench into the process. Although teens may appear mature in some cases, they often have oceans of self-doubt. However, they’re not likely to express those feelings to parents. Combine that with the massive loss of divorce: lifestyle change, removal of one parent from daily life. It’s a lot to manage.

According to several studies, most children bounce back and fare well years after a divorce. But many teens struggle during the actual separation and shortly after the split. They may act out, rebel, behave in ways out of character. One common problem parents have is that the teen rebels against scheduled times with the other parent. Here are some approaches for helping your teen: 

Tips for Helping Your Teenagers

  • Remember this change is affecting his or her view of relationships in general. Treat your ex with respect in front of your teen; be the bigger person if necessary. Do not speak negatively about him or her in front of your children. 
  • This change may shake his or her trust in both parents. Help restore that trust by being trustworthy. Do what you say you will do. Be consistent. 
  • Make sure she or he has time to bond with both parents. 
  • Remain a parent. Don’t share your adult problems with your teen. He or she has a lot to figure out about relationships. Seeking solace by sharing your emotional problems with him or her may feel like bonding, but it’s not helping his or her development. 
  • Maintain a schedule. Keep life as routine as possible to reduce his/her stress. 
  • Encourage other relationships such as those with grandparents or an adult mentor.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology also offers some tips for children and divorce.

More questions about managing your teenager? Ask a therapist at our monthly divorce workshop.


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