Articles - Teenagers





My Parents Are Getting Divorced

By Caren Caty, Ph.D.

Studies on marriage and divorce in the United States report 41%50% of first marriages end in divorce. By the age of 16, half of all adolescents will have divorced parents, with 15% experiencing parental divorce twice. How spouses navigate this transition has a significant impact on their children. Teenagers can be especially vulnerable to divorce and may experience profound feelings of loss akin to a death in the family. While these emotional wounds can heal over time, mourning the loss of an intact family and end to a way of life can leave a young person struggling with emotions such as sadness, anger, and guilt, which have been known to lead to stomachaches, headaches, eating and sleeping disorders, depression, anxiety, aggressive behavior, social and academic dysfunction, and other stress-related disorders.

While many mental health professionals believe that divorce can be healthier to child development than a high conflict marriage, a dissolving marriage can be a sad time for everyone in the family. Typically teenagers realize there are difficulties in the relationship between their parents long before the decision to divorce occurs. The best outcome for children is when their parents continue to function in cooperation with one another, transcending negative statements and behaviors. Therefore, it is recommended for both parents (if possible) to deliver the news about the divorce to their children, empathetically telling the children that the divorce is not their fault. Of course, when child maltreatment, domestic violence, or other violence and/or mental illness are involved the situation is more complicated.

Tips for showing support to a teenager coping with a family divorce:

● Provide a quiet  place (without interruptions) for teens to discuss and experience their feelings

● Be a good listener

 ● Provide empathy

 ● Provide reassuring hugs

● Let them know the divorce was not their fault

● Allow for teenagers to be alone with their thoughts and encourage poetry and diary

    writing about their feelings and experiences

●Teenagers require ample opportunity to talk to and stay connected with their friends

● Refrain from blaming and name-calling

● Keep habits and rituals as normal as possible

Alert necessary school personnel of the situation as they can be a source of support for the

    teen while at school

● Be patient

● Divorce: Helping Teens Cope











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