The Effects of Divorce on Your Teenage Child

Divorce is not easy for anyone—both the parents and the children included. However, as you probably already know, the older your child is, the bigger the problems. Many teens dealing with divorce will backslide to negative behavior, or withdraw from the family and social groups in order to process the loss of their family as they knew it. What are some of the common effects of divorce on teenagers? Here are just a few, although every teen and his or her family situation is unique.

Effects of Divorce On Teenagers 

Your teen may experience any of these issues:

  • Have trouble in school—his or her grades may fall, or worse, your teen may “skip school” or try to play sick to avoid going
  • Broken sleep: don’t be surprised if your teen starts staying up all night or on the flip side, sleeping too much.
  • Substance abuse: your teen may start to experiment with alcohol and drugs in order to deal with the emotions of the divorce. This is when helping kids cope with divorce is so essential!
  • Fighting with peers, family and authority figures

If your teen is already struggling with issues such as depression and anxiety, obviously the loss of his or her family will impact these issues as well. In general, when considering how your teen might respond to divorce, keep in mind a few things:

1- Your teen’s general temperament: is your teen easy-going or resistant to change? Will he or she talk to you, or do you find yourself looking at a slammed door rather than his or her face?

2- What support does your teen have? Teens dealing with divorce need solid support systems to help them through. Does your teen:

  • Have strong social groups to turn to?
  • Activities or hobbies to “keep busy?”
  • Trusted adults other than you and your soon-to be former spouse to turn to? Like teachers, or a coach?

3- Face an ugly or amicable divorce? If it’s an ugly situation, expect to deal with more issues from your teen. If it’s amicable, it will help him or her cope.

Now that you know how teenagers and divorce don’t always mix well, let’s consider ways you can help alleviate negativity and the effects of divorce on teenagers.

Tips For Helping Kids Cope With Divorce 

Here are a few ways you can help get your teen through the divorce:

  • Don’t give in to guilt: don’t start to spoil your teen out of guilt. Be firm and fair with discipline, and stick to your guns. Your teen needs a parent, not a friend
  • Cut back: on your emotions in front of your teen. If you and your ex cannot be civil, avoid speaking with each other and stick to emails and texts. No child needs to deal with that drama.
  • Alert potential support people: talk to trusted adults and teachers to create a support network for your teen ahead of time. Let your teen know these people—and you—are there to help him or her through.
  • Open door policy: let your teen know he or she can come to you to talk about the divorce with no judgment. Even if you’re thrilled to be done with your spouse, your teen may not feel the same! Keep your words silent and simply listen.
  • Ask for referrals: if your teen shows signs of depression, substance use, sexual activity or starts to slip up at school, ask your family doctor for a therapy referral.

Divorce isn’t easy for any of us but for teens who are not yet adults but not children any longer, it can be incredibly devastating. Do your best to help see your teen through this tough time.