How Divorce Impacts Teens and How to Help Them Cope

There’s no question that divorce is difficult. Routines, expectations and relationships for the future can all change. Of course, children are also affected. As a parent, it’s important to understand how divorce can affect your teen and how you can support them during such a challenging time and transition. Here are some things to look out for and how you can help.

Connection to Parents

First of all, your teen’s relationship with you and your ex-spouse might shift dramatically as a result of your divorce. Generally speaking, adolescence tends to be a time when teens start to pull away from their parents. They might rebel, communicate less or at least demonstrate more independence. All of these natural occurrences are often amplified in a divorce as a teen’s frustrations and grievances with their parents are exacerbated.

As a parent, it’s important to notice the reason why your teen might be pulling away. If your teen feels that you’re putting your needs before theirs, or that their needs aren’t being met at all, it might be time to adjust your behavior and have a conversation with your teen about how they feel. Try to make yourself available and remain involved in your teen’s life in a reliable way, even while you’re dealing with this difficult period. While it’s important that you find a support system for yourself, whether it’s from your family or a therapist, your teen also needs to feel supported.

Emotional Strain

sad teen facing a tree

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Divorce is certainly an emotional and stressful time for everyone involved, and your teen is no exception. They might be unsure of how to express how they feel in a healthy, productive way.

As part of the problem, teens may experience an increased heart rate and blood pressure when they witness their parents fighting. Over time, these physiological changes can develop into severe conditions. In other words, the stress of seeing their parents fight can affect your teen’s mental health and ability to cope well.

It’s important to keep your teen’s well being and feelings in mind. Avoid fighting in front of your teen as much as possible or bringing them into the middle of your arguments. Try to teach your teen healthy coping strategies, and share mindful ways of expressing their feelings as well.

Romantic Relationships

Your marriage with your partner is likely one of the most familiar romantic relationships your teen will witness. If it breaks apart, it might have negative effects on how your teen views romantic relationships. In fact, your teen might struggle with commitment, or they might avoid romance out of fear that the relationship might fail.

Take the time to talk to your teen and help them understand the positive elements in romantic relationships. You can suggest healthy role models in their life—even if it can’t be you and your former spouse. They may look to other family members, like their grandparents, or their friends’ parents as more optimistic examples.

Academic Performance

books and notebook

Image Credit: Mikhail Pavstyuk

With all of this added stress, confusion and emotional instability, your teen’s academic performance might suffer as a result of your divorce. They might be focusing on their family’s circumstances rather than their homework.

Schedule some time with your teen’s teachers to have an open and honest conversation about your teen’s home situation. Your teen’s teachers might be able to offer some suggestions or support to ensure that your teen get the extra help they might require. You can also offer to help your teen study for exams or complete a project, if you notice that their grades have been slipping.

While there’s no doubt that your teen will be affected by a divorce, there are ways you can be proactive and attentive to their needs during this tumultuous period. It can be easy to get distracted, but if you keep your teen’s feelings and well-being in mind, you’ll be able to help them cope with these drastic changes in a healthy and effective manner.

Feature Image: Thorn Yang