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Teenagers and Divorce: Tips for Parents

Divorce can be emotionally traumatic for everyone involved, including the children. The age of a child at the time the parents are going through a divorce can directly impact how a child handles the divorce and the extent to which the divorce causes or exacerbates behavioral problems. If you are the parent of a teenager and you are contemplating divorce or have already decided to end your marriage, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby offers tips on divorce with teenage children.

How Is Divorce Different for Teenage Children?

The legal and practical aspects of a divorce are the same for children of all ages; however, a three-year-old child will not haveSmyrna divorce lawyer the same experience as a 13-year-old when parents are getting divorced. That is not to say that it is easier or harder for a teenager when mom and dad are splitting up – just that is it different. There is some evidence suggesting that older children have a tougher time emotionally when parents get divorced. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, children whose parents broke up in late childhood and early adolescence, between the ages of 7 and 14 had, on average, a 16 per cent increase in emotional problems and an 8 per cent rise in conduct issues in the short term. There have also been numerous studies conducted showing some correlation between risky behaviors in teenagers and parental separation or divorce. While it is impossible to completely shield your teenager from the impact of your divorce, there are things you can do to limit the negative impact and reduce the risks for your child.

Tips for Parents of Teenagers during a Divorce

Every divorce involves a unique set of circumstances just as every teenager is an individual. As such, the most important thing you can do to help your teenager get through your divorce is to enlist the help of trained professionals when the need appears. There are, however, some general tips that may help you and your teenage child during and after the divorce process, including:

  • Acknowledge what is happening. This may seem obvious; however, as a parent you may unintentionally try to shield your child from the harsh reality of divorce. Your teenage child knows something is happening though and in the absence of information will “fill-in-the-blanks.” What your child uses to fill those blanks may be far worse than what is actually happening.
  • Keep boundaries in place. It can be easy to fall into the habit of talking to your teenager as you would an adult friend. Not only will this likely include you talking negatively about your child’s other parent, something you should avoid doing, but it also puts your child in a position where he/she feels responsible for your emotional health instead of the other way around. If you need to talk things through with someone, talk to a friend or a therapist, not your teenager.
  • Do not weaponize your teenager. It can also be tempting to unconsciously use your teenager as a weapon. This can occur when you ask your child seemingly innocent questions about what is happening at the other parent’s new house or in their new life but can also be more direct when a parent asks a child to find out information about the other parent. This puts a teenage child in an impossible situation and increases the emotional impact of the divorce on the child. It is fine to bring up the other parent but make sure you are not unconsciously fishing for information. 
  • Refrain from changing the rules. You may be worried that your teenager will want to spend more time with his/her other parent than with you after the divorce. Concerns such as this are normal; however, resist the temptation to change the rules in an effort to “win over” your child. Your child is experiencing enough changes already. While it may be difficult, keeping the rules and the routine the same around the house is best for you and your teenage child in the long run.

Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney 

If you have additional questions about divorce in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney as soon as possible. Contact the team at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.

Stan Bennett