Separating isn’t easy, and many divorced parents worry about how they might alter their parenting to minimize damage on their teenager. It is common for teenagers to have a variety of negative emotions and increased risk after divorce, but having the right attitude and methods can prevent the poor outcomes from becoming long term problems. Here are five tips to keep in mind when parenting your teen after separation.
1. Don’t Make You Teen Your Confidant
It’s important to find someone to confide it, but it shouldn’t be your teenager. Your teen has to struggle with the effects of the divorce on their own, and shouldn’t be burdened with additional stress that you can put on them by treating them like a therapist. We suggest that you confide in someone else, like a close friend, someone who went through similar experiences or a professional therapist.
2. Encourage Closer Bonding with Your Teen
One of the unexpected positive outcomes of divorce is that teens get closer to their parents than if they had stayed married. If you maintain a positive attitude, use inspirational language, and find more ways to bond with your teen in a unique way, your relationship will be better than it ever has been. Use this opportunity to show a different side of yourself to your teen, and get to know your teen more personally too.
3. Don’t Talk Badly About Your Ex
One of the most troubling things you can do to your teen after divorce is criticize your ex. Your teen needs to have a positive relationship with both parents, that part doesn’t change after separation. Criticism can ruin those relationships. Plus, you don’t want your teen to start picking sides or make the family more divisive during a time when everyone needs to heal. We recommend that you only speak positively about your ex, regardless of the gripes you may have.
4. Pay Attention to Emotional Changes
Another tip we have is to pay close attention to emotional or behavioral changes in yourself and your teen. If you or your teen start acting out, or stop socializing, or form other negative habits, you should take note and come up with strategies to cope with the divorce in a healthier way. One way to cope is to have regular communication, get exercise, and find new hobbies to get involved in. These are beneficial for you and your teen, and should help you stay on track if your mood persistently changes.
5. Find Counseling for Your Teen
We think it’s important for your teen to have someone to talk to about the divorce that isn’t a parent. Having a third party is crucial because they can approach their issues with the divorce without fear of offending someone. Also, your teen is likely to experience anger, frustration, sadness, or other negative emotions that can interfere with their lifestyle. Being unable to express emotions in a healthy way can lead to risky behavior in the future. Having a counselor might help your teen learn how to handle their feelings and continue to live a happy life.
We Hope This Helps
These situations are never easy, and there can be a lot of unpredictable consequences on your teenager. We hope that following these tips can help you reduce the negative impact of divorce on your teen.
ANDY EARLE is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.