Whether your divorce took you by surprise, or it is the fresh start you’ve needed, it is going to have an impact on every member of your family. Children and teenagers can often bear the brunt of the emotional turmoil surrounding significant changes to the family dynamic. What it looks like in your family may be based upon factors unique to your relationships with them.
Younger children may react with sadness and quite often behavioral regression. On the other hand, parents may find that they have troubled teens on their hands when their adolescents learn about the separation. Teens often see divorce as a betrayal of them and the family unit. They can often act out and start to pull away from each of their parents. They could also become abusive, verbally and physically.
Just what could this look like in your home? Is there anything that you can do to help your teenager through this stage?
Can you predict your teen’s behavior during your divorce?
We all like to believe that we know our children’s every behavior and mood. Even the most predictable person, regardless of age, can react in a different way than you’d expect when emotions run deep.
If your troubled teen has been struggling in previous months and now faces the emotions that can swirl around a divorce, you may find yourself with a very unpredictable person living under your roof.
You do know your teen better than most do, so you will know how to best proceed. And you’ll have an idea as to what might help and where your limits to providing guidance and help might be.
Prepare to see an increase in your teen often expressing turbulent emotions and behaviors. Some may seem incredibly out of character but keep in mind that they struggle to navigate this very new situation. There will also be high levels of confusion and uncertainty, which can set even the most confident adult off-kilter just a bit.
The importance of the parent relationship
In reality, divorce can often be the better option for every member of the family. Before the separation, you may have found yourself constantly at odds with your spouse. Frequent arguments and tension in the home can cause a significant amount of discomfort for everyone, particularly the kids.
With the exception of situations where abuse has been a concern, a divorce doesn’t need to be adversarial. Certainly, there are those underlying emotions that may include anger and heartbreak. However, continuing with behavior that includes lashing out in anger, arguments, and negative talk about your ex can only cause further harm. Your children, no matter their age, will be acutely aware of all of it. They will hear the arguments, they will pick up on the anger and frustration, and they will hear each parent speaking ill of the other.
Coming together with your ex, working out an arrangement so that you work together as parents can offer great benefits for your kids. This can look a few different ways. It is up to you and your ex to determine the best way forward, to ensure emotional and mental stability for your children.
Some of the ways you can work with your ex could include:
- Making an effort not to argue with each other in front of your children.
- Ensuring that you only speak in positive tones when it comes to your ex and any new partners that they get involved with.
- Avoid blaming each other for the marriage dissolving.
- Determine out visitation schedules that ensure the most stability for each child, regardless of age.
- Keep up with routines as much as is possible, including family dinners together.
- Provide honest and age-appropriate answers to questions that you are asked.
It’s so important for your family that you come together, even when separation is the goal. The more you show a united front, the more reassured your troubled teen will be.
Be a present force as your teen tries to cope
It is entirely natural for younger children and teens to pull away, to seek more time alone or with friends. This can be a challenge to balance with trying to be a present force in their life. The reality is that several parts of any divorce can be difficult for everyone in the family, even in situations where things are perfectly amicable.
Being present for and with your teen can make a world of difference. This can mean talking to them, reassuring them that you are there when they want to talk, monitoring their activities, and showing a genuine interest in the things they enjoy.
It is important that your teen recognizes that you are always going to be there for them but experiences this during difficult times in their life.
Even in those amicable situations, it’s important to remember that your teen is likely going to grieve what he or she perceives to be the loss of their family life. You will need to expect and adjust to various emotions that could range from sadness, anxiety, depressive episodes, and anger.
Risks your teen faces during a divorce
There are several potential concerns for any parent faced with a troubled teen. Throw in the emotional turmoil of a divorce, and the risks can take a much more frightening turn. It is estimated that a third of teenagers struggle with the fallout from their parents divorcing and their family dynamic changing.
Some of the risky behaviors to look for during a divorce include:
- Alcohol use and abuse
- Drug use and abuse
- Violent behavior
- Skipping school, or getting into trouble at school
- Relationship concerns, including intimate relationships
- Depression, anxiety, and self-harm behaviors
What your troubled teen experiences can vary greatly, based upon their personality and their potential for seeking out risky behavior.
The importance of seeking out professional help cannot be overstated. What that looks like for your family should be determined by the needs of each member of the family. Individual counseling may help younger children, and family counseling may help the family as a whole. Teens can also greatly benefit from therapy and treatment that helps them to develop valuable coping skills.
Consider getting the right help for your troubled teen in a residential treatment center setting. At Help Your Teen Now, we can help guide your family to the residential treatment center that will best meet your teen’s needs.
There, your troubled teen will receive help from compassionate, licensed mental health professionals. Healthy coping skills and other valuable mental wellness skills will be shared in a safe and structured environment.
There’s no wrong time to reach out to find the treatment center that will help your teenager find his or her way back to stability and mental wellness.