How can divorce impact teenagers?
Divorce and separation may be a difficult and stressful experience for everyone involved. Even though the marital ties between the adults have been severed, their duty as parents has not. It's important to ensure that the kids get all their assistance.
Divorce is a process in which children will have no choice but to participate. The treatment given to children and the importance given to their emotional and physical needs significantly influence their adaptation and future psychosocial development.
The challenges for older children
The previous culture of "staying together for the sake of the children" seems to have given a rise in the number of young adults seeing their parents separate. Adult children are frequently thought to handle divorce better. However, from our experience, both gender and age have an impact on children's responses to divorce. Older children also confront a perplexing issue with their own identity after dealing with the dissolution of their family; as their solid family unit disappears, they are forced to reconsider themselves, rethink their future, and perhaps even reconsider their past.
As a result, being asked for advice about anything from homework to making the most of their degree can be overwhelming. This may add to the pressure they already feel as they work towards final examinations at school or establish themselves at university. In addition, they may be called in as a confidante, adjudicator, or sounding board by a parent.
Where there is a dispute about a child's future, a child arrangement order will resolve the parents' disagreement. But the law is clear that no court shall make such an order which will apply to a child once that child is sixteen unless the circumstances are "exceptional".
How children aged 13-16 tend to react
- They can be angry with their parents, accusing them of selfishness by separating the family unit.
- They may make desperate appeals for their parents to reunite.
- They will need time alone to work out their own reactions to the separation.
- They could try and manipulate conflicts between parents.
- They may react with anger and rejection if pressured by one parent.
- They could regress, expressing more childlike behaviours.
Certainly, this age group may benefit from assistance and support outside of the family setting, such as therapy and counselling.
What older children need
- Reassure your children that you will always love and support them.
- Remove the weight of taking sides and keeping secrets from them. Give them permission and approval to maintain a relationship with the other parent (save where their safety is at risk).
- Reassure your children that you intend to resolve the problem with the other parent reasonably and that you don't require their assistance to do so.
- Tell them that divorce and separation aren't simple and that you may appear a bit irritable from time to time.
- Find a form of words to explain the family breakdown that your children can use as well as you, and ideally, adopt it jointly with the other parent. You will find that it releases you from being caught up in the tittle-tattle around your separation.
To support children during separation and help them with their worries, you should:
- Remind them that they are loved by both parents.
- Be honest when talking about it, but keep in mind the child's age and understanding.
- Avoid blame – don't share any negative feelings the adults have about each other.
- Keep up normal routines, such as school activities, specific meals, and bedtimes.
- Let them know they can talk about their feelings with you and explain that it's okay to be sad, confused or angry.
- Listen more than you speak. Answering questions will help them to open up.
If you have any more questions or would like more information, you can contact the Family Law Solicitors at Myerson.