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Florida Women's Law Group

Divorcing With Teenagers

Author: FWLG
Date: Jan 11 2021

young couple with guy leaning on girl's shoulder

If you are the parent of a teenager then you know the struggle that comes with it, it is probably the hardest parenting years.  As teens deal with changes in their bodies, fluctuating emotions, friends, school and other activities parenting becomes interesting to say the least.  Add a divorce and it is hard to determine what is typical teen angst and what behavior is more concerning.  It may be easier to form a strategy to help guide them through the transition if you are aware of common reactions and behaviors teens often display during a divorce.

Teenage Emotions

Teenagers are notoriously stoic and keep their emotions to themselves.  Because of this you may not be aware of what they are truly feeling.  It is not uncommon for teens to be angry and place blame on one parent or the other.  They may try to play one parent against the other or fight you on which parent they are with and when.  Teens have trouble controlling their emotions and can say things that can hurt your feelings or make you feel guilty.  Kids release their anger on people they feel most comfortable with, most often mothers, and it is easier for them to be angry than sad.  It will be hard and may result in some tears but be mindful that this is perfectly normal and it is not personal.

Changes in Behavior

Because teens are not big on communication with their parents it is important to be aware of changes in behavior that may signal that they are having a hard time with the divorce.  Signs that they may be depressed include withdrawing from friends and activities they use to enjoy, changes in sleep patterns, eating disorders, physical ailments and declining grades at school.

They can also begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol and other risky behaviors as a way to numb their feelings or avoid them all together.  Be aware of erratic mood swings, lying, changes in friends, changes in school performance and rage or overreaction to even the smallest things.

Communication is key with teenagers.  They may not want to talk all the time but when they do, give them your undivided attention.  Put your cellphone away, turn off the TV and listen fully to what they are saying.  Talk honestly with them and answer their questions as best you can without talking negatively about the other parent or placing blame.

Neutral third parties are a great resource for teens to talk to about how they are feeling.  This could be a counselor, teacher, family friend or someone they can talk openly with about their emotions.

Stuck in the Middle

When parents divorce is it normal for children to feel they must choose one parent over the other, especially if it is a contentious divorce.  Teenagers can feel stuck in the middle and have conflicted emotions about loyalty.  Parents that are divorcing and have teens are more likely to lean on them and talk to them about their problems which just adds to the teens stress.  Teens can feel like pawns in a divorce when one parent is bad mouthing the other or they are being asked to report back with details on what the other parent is doing.  These actions make the teen feel disloyal and just add to their anxiety.  Do not add to your child’s stress by treating them as your counselor or make them feel as if they have to pick between the two of you.  

Teenagers are friend-focused and are learning to be their own person.  Be flexible with them when it comes to scheduling and understand that they need time for friends and outside activities.  With good communication, active listening and amicable co-parenting, your teenagers can get through this transition and go on to be happy, well-adjusted adults.

Even for adults these changes can be terrifying.  Just as a child has their parents to help them, our attorneys are here to help you.  If you have any questions about your divorce, call our office to speak to one of our team members today.

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