It’s estimated that two out of every five U.S. teenagers have divorced or separated parents. While divorce has become commonplace for most, the drastic change to the family unit is anything but routine for teens, even when it’s the best option.
Older children may be better suited to understanding why their parents are no longer together. But they still need tremendous love and support to deal with the effects. Co-parents must be united to help them transition to this new reality.
Do’s and don’ts for co-parents
Teenagers can thrive despite divorce when spouses no longer get along. But when negative feelings for each other persist, teens can suffer even more. Many kids can develop mental illness, such as depression, or they might engage in risky behavior, causing problems at school and home. The good news is that parents can help them avoid these issues by knowing what to do and what not to do. Here are some examples:
Things parents can do:
- Let kids help make decisions affecting their after-divorce lives
- Encourage their relationship with the other parent
- Create a safe zone for them to ask questions and express their feelings
- Be consistent with discipline
- Attend their sporting events and other extracurricular activities
- Be honest about changes
Things parents should NOT do:
- Treat your teen as an adult confidante about marital issues
- Badmouth the other parent
- Use them as messengers
- Argue with your co-parent in front of them
- Put them in the middle of any conflict with the other parent
Even when parents are on the same page and do everything right to help their child during the transition, some kids will still struggle to adjust. In those cases, consider professional help, such as mental health counseling. Therapy sessions can be instrumental in absorbing the significant changes they’re experiencing. The bottom line is putting their needs ahead of any lingering ill feelings between you and your co-parent.