When parents of adolescents split up, the children have to contend with the pain of divorce and the ordinary challenges of their stage of development. While it may seem that being older and closer to adulthood would make it easier, teens are still children, and going through the experience of losing the only family they have ever known can be devastating for them. For parents, there are some important issues to consider during divorce when you have teenage children.
Independence and Peer Groups
During the teen years, kids tend to be driven towards independence from their parents and identify more closely with their peers. When parents are divorcing, teenagers may deal with their feelings by becoming more rebellious, rejecting their parents, and wanting to be with their friends more.
This response can present challenges in maintaining a dialogue about the changes in their family. While some parental rejection is to be expected, there could be a point when you and your ex may need to involve a therapist or family counselor to help your teenager work through their emotions.
Placement Time Can be Complicated
Unlike with younger children, forcing teenagers to spend time with parents according to a schedule is not realistic. Teen kids have more autonomy, and being made to go to a parent’s home while forgoing time with their friends and missing out on preferred activities, will only add to their resentment about the divorce.
Additionally, adolescents may want to live with and more closely identify with a parent of the same gender. The other parent may have to adapt to this dynamic and be flexible when it comes to seeing their child. Although placement time may not go according to schedule, parents need to be mindful of their child’s perspective in order to find the right ways to connect and maintain their relationship.
Your Relationship is Still their Model
Often, when parents divorce, they may think their relationship is about them and not their children. However, just as when you were married, your kids are looking to you and the other parent as role models on how to be in a relationship.
They need to see their parents treating each other with respect and cooperating whenever possible. When you and your ex show you can work together, it reduces stress on your child and sends a message that he or she is the main priority for both of you.
Keep Trying No Matter What
Unfortunately, teenagers whose parents are going through a divorce can get caught up in their parents’ conflicts and react by pushing them away. When your teen is rejecting you and refusing to visit it could be his or her way of expressing pain and punishing you for the divorce. Although it is excruciating for your teenager to act this way, it’s critical that you keep trying to work with them.
You want your child to know that you love them and are committed to being in their life. It’s up to you as an adult to keep making an effort. Even if it takes a long time to get through, your child will know you did everything you could to be there for them rather than backing away when they needed you the most.
By showing up, trying to connect, and being in their lives consistently, you can help them get through this transition.