It’s normal if a teenager doesn’t know what to think when their parents get a divorce.
The divorce of their parents can be very shocking.
The thoughts and feelings going through their mind are usually confusing and scary, having very little idea of what might happen to them or their family.
Some questions they might have are …
- “Will we have to move from this neighborhood?”
- “Will I have to change schools?”
- “Will I be able to go to college?”
- “Is this my fault?”
- “Who will I live with: Dad or Mom?”
- “Where will my pet dog/cat live?”
- “Will I see my father?”
- “What will my friends think of me?”
- “Why is this happening to me?”
In many instances, teens might feel like they can’t talk with their parents about how they feel. They might be embarrassed or might not know how to express themselves about it.
But, most parents and a lot of other people want to be supportive of a young person as they go through such a challenging time. The hard part is being sensitive when approaching the situation or knowing what to say.
I think sometimes keeping it simple is best. All a parent might need to do is simply tell their teenager … “I’m here for you.” This will give them an open window to talk when they’re ready.
21 Tips for Supporting Your Teen During & After Divorce
1. Provide quality and simple support at a time when everything seems chaotic.
2. Be patient with their behavior.
4. Respond with consistent support and set boundaries.
5. Do more listening than talking. Teenagers going through divorce are usually confused and need to be listened to and heard.
6. Keep visible conflict, heated discussions, and legal talk away from your teen.
7. Support their feelings even if you don’t agree. Emotions aren’t always logical.
8. Acknowledge their emotions and continue to guide them with conversation helping them talk about their present feelings.
9. Teens need to know you care and that they are worth being cared about.
10. Find another person they can talk to such as a mentor, friend, therapist or relative.
11. Keep your teenagers routine as normal as possible.
12. Find them a support group with people their own age who are experiencing something similar.
13. Giving teens the time they need to think and experience divorce is ok. Sometimes it takes a long time for teens to process what they have been through and for healing to take place.
14. Divorce can be a big change, adjustments and living arrangements should be handled gradually.
15. Parents need to understand and be ok with what is comfortable with your teen with living arrangements. It can be tough to decide especially when couples disagree. But also keep in mind that some teens are able to thrive by spending half their time with each parent, others need the stability of having one “home” and visiting with the other parent.
16. Whatever arrangement is chosen, your child’s needs should come first. Avoid getting involved in a tug of war as a way to “win.”
17. When deciding how to handle birthdays, holidays, and vacations, stay focused on what’s best for your teen and what they want.
18. It’s important for parents to resolve issues themselves and not ask your teen to choose.
19. Get help dealing with your own painful feelings about the divorce. If you adjust, your teen will too.
20. Recognize stress. Talk with a child therapist for guidance on how to handle specific problems you’re concerned about.
21. Any type of change can be challenging. Believe everything will be OK.
A version of this article first appeared on DivorcedMoms.com.