If you’re divorcing when your child is in their teens, you might not be as concerned about how they’ll deal with it as you would have been if they were younger. They probably have friends whose parents are divorced. However, depending on what they’ve heard from those kids, that can make them even more anxious about what will happen to them.
Parental divorce can be traumatic for children of any age – even for adult children who’ve been on their own for years. For teenagers, it can be particularly difficult. They’re already going through a multitude of changes in their own lives and bodies. Whether they seem to have a lot of feelings about it or not, they likely do.
No teen reacts the same – so watch for things that are unusual for them
That’s why it’s crucial for both parents to watch for changes in their teen’s eating and sleeping habits. Slipping grades or lack of interest in extracurricular and social activities can be a sign of distress. Some kids start getting into fights at school or with teammates. Others may even turn to alcohol, drugs and/or sex for the first time.
There are a number of things that parents can do to make their divorce easier on their teens. Let’s look at a couple:
1. Don’t overshare
You may consider your teen your “best friend,” but they aren’t. They’re your child. Just because they can understand the concept of a partner who cheats on or ignores them, that doesn’t mean they should hear about your relationship problems with their other parent.
One co-parenting coach explains that sharing information about your marriage can “rob them of their childhood” because you’re telling them things “they are not prepared for emotionally or psychologically.”
2. Don’t let up on discipline – but be consistent
It won’t take long for your teen to realize that you feel guilty about the divorce and learn to use that to their advantage. It’s important for both parents to maintain the same rules and expectations they had before and enforce them consistently in both homes.
A detailed parenting plan is just as important for a teen as a younger child. If there are areas where you can give your teen a say, this can help prevent them from feeling like they’ve lost all control over their life. Having legal guidance can help you do what’s best for your child.