Teenager’s can have strong reactions to their parents divorce. Most of the time teenagers simply want to be left alone to handle the situation on their own terms. That is totally, perfectly fine. Your not going to tell a teenager how they should or should not feel about their parents divorce.
Here’s what parents have to worry about: Teenagers may become aloof, may suffer from falling grades and fall into a “different” crowd.
Teenagers are extremely able to manipulate parents who are waging war with one another. Teenagers despise 1. parents who want to be their “new best friend” 2. being asked to spy on their other parent, 3. having to carry messages back and forth between parents. Teenagers also very inquisitive and are able to view parents internet history and other personal data.
When we talk about short and long term effects of kids we focus on certain negative behavior. Teenagers seem to be the most visibly affected, with higher rates of sexual promiscuity, alcoholism and possible drug use than their peers. Teenagers even can fall into “cutting” themselves knowing no other way to express themselves.
Teenagers are embarrassed to see their parents in conflict. Teenagers who continue to see their parents in prolonged conflict may be inclined to want to cease relations with one of their parents. Teenagers who are empowered to not have “relations” with one of their parents may also feel that they are entitled to make OTHER DECISIONS that are also not in their best interest.
So what do teenagers need? They need parents who are on the same page. They need parents who do not lose the respect of their children. Teenagers need to know that they do not have to say WHO they want to live with.
In the long term teenagers become adults, adults who have a hard time forging relationships. These adults can suffer from depression and anxiety.
So are all teenagers affected by divorce? Absolutely not. Our advice to parents 1. Minimize your conflict during and after divorce, 2. Be up front with your teenager – how is this divorce going to affect them, 3. Watch out for bad behavior and work together as parents to address disciplinary issues. Teenagers, whether they will admit it or not, want to make sure that mom and dad are their enough to give them direction when it is needed.
Remember teenagers are forming their own identity into young adults. Give them the space that they need to grow! Teenagers not only want mom and dad time, they want their time to be with friends, enjoy activities and pursue their dreams.