There’s no denying that adolescence is a time of transition from being a child to establishing an identity different from your parents. Divorced parents of teenagers may wonder if changes in their teen’s behavior are due to normal development or their breakup. Some teenagers seem to make it through their parents’ divorce relatively easily, while others struggle and are more vulnerable to negative emotions and low self-esteem. The reasons for these differences include: the teen’s temperament and gender, parenting styles, and a families post-divorce adjustment.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution to helping your teenager cope with your divorce. But if you have built a healthy foundation with them prior to your divorce, it’s likely that your relationship will improve in time. Further, a study by Joan B. Kelly and Robert E. Emery shows that children of divorce who spend engaged time with both parents are more likely to have better psychological and behavioral adjustment, and enhanced academic performance.
Adolescents are greatly impacted by change and may grasp for control in dramatic ways. One way this plays out is in a custody schedule. Whereas, the younger child may seem to enter into the routine of spending time with both parents with few complaints, it’s common for a teenager to balk at the ground rules that have been set for "Parenting Time" – a term describing the time a child spends with both parents. However, the final decision about a teenager's schedule is the parent's responsibility, not the teens. My research shows that a shared parenting arrangement will encourage children to adapt better to parental divorce in the years to come.
Friends, school, extracurricular activities, and jobs are all crucial to a teen’s well-being. Being flexible in your parenting schedule allows your teenager time to enjoy the things that are essential for his or her life. But if you hold onto your own agenda and are rigid, he or she might end up feeling disappointed or resentful toward you. Operating from a mind-set that your teen needs balance in their life will serve as a protective factor during the whirlwind of adolescence.
7 suggestions to help ease your teen’s adjustment to divorce:
Family is still an important form of support to a teenager even though they are spreading their wings and trying out new ventures. Be creative in coming up with fun ways to spend time together that you’ll both enjoy such as pizza and a movie or a hike. Encourage them to invite their friends to join you when possible. The problems that arise can be more easily solved when you have a good relationship with your teen. Finally, promote your child's resiliency by modeling optimism and hope for their future.