Maybe you and your spouse have been waiting until your children got a little older to end your marriage because you feared a divorce would traumatize them. Perhaps you’ve just had more time to focus on your own feelings of unhappiness now that your children don’t need – or want — your attention as much.
Whatever the situation, divorcing parents of teens should never assume that their kids won’t be as deeply affected by their break-up as they would have been when they were younger. Parental divorce can be hard on teens. They’re just likely to exhibit different signs of problems than younger kids, and parents need to recognize and deal with their feelings.
Common signs of teen stress and anxiety
Every teen is different – and yours might even seem like a different person from one day to the next. Teens who become depressed over their parents’ divorce and the break-up of their family may experience insomnia – or they might start sleeping too much.
Some teens seem fine at home but start acting out in other areas of their life, like school or sports. They might start fighting more with their siblings or with one or both parents. These teens are often angry about a loss of control over their life.
What can you do as a parent?
Many divorcing parents of teens make the mistake of telling them too much. While parents can typically share more information about the reasons for the divorce than they can with young children, teens don’t need to hear the details – especially if it involves the shortcomings of the other parent.
Remember that they’re still the child in this situation. Even if you’re particularly close to your teen, don’t confide in them. That’s what therapists, best friends and siblings are for. They shouldn’t feel like they’re expected to take sides or protect you.
Maintain consistent rules and expectations across homes
No matter their age, kids typically adjust better to living in two homes when both parents expect the same things of them. There can and will be differences over relatively minor details. However, kids feel more secure when their parents basically agree on what’s right for them – even if the rules are stricter than they’d prefer.
A parenting plan is just as important for a teen as for a toddler. It will just look different. Don’t neglect this aspect of your divorce and custody agreement.