When parents get divorced, it impacts the entire family. Responsibilities shift, finances shift, emotions shift, and your teen is in the middle trying to make sense of it all. Making the change from being parents to co-parents is rarely always an easy transition, and it usually takes time to find a new routine that works for everyone. However, there are a few ways that you can make things easier when it comes to talking with your teens about divorce.
The Divorce Conversation
When you and your spouse make the decision to get a divorce, it’s important to sit down with your children and have an honest conversation about it. You can share any information that you and your co-parent believe will be relevant to your situation. Make sure to emphasize that the divorce has to do with you and your co-parent, and not with your child or children. When family dynamics begin shifting, it’s natural for children to seek a culprit for the divorce, and you want to prevent them from placing blame on themselves.
Keep Communication Open
After you’ve had the initial conversation about your divorce, it’s important to keep giving your children updates about the situation. For example, if you are moving, you should tell your children as early on as you can about the move. Try to involve your teenagers in changes that involve them so they feel included in the ongoing adjustment process. When they participate in the decision making process, they can better cope. The new changes will feel less sudden and out of their control.
Think About Proceedings in Regards to Your Kids
When you’re going through the legal process for your divorce, consider what is going to be best for your kids, not just what is going to be best for you. Divorce mediation is a great option for parents who are ending their marriage but want to continue to actively co-parent together. Mediation is different from litigation in that there isn’t a judge or other third party involved in the decision making process. When parents go to court for a divorce, a judge has the final say over the decisions being made, and the ones getting divorced have to accept it. If you and your co-parent are able to work together to compromise during the divorce process, mediation is a great tool.
Prepare For Difficult Conversations
Throughout the divorce process, no matter how amicable you and your co-parent are, odds are that there will be growing pains. No one can perfectly adapt to such a change, and emotions often are running high. Make sure that you’re cognizant of the struggles your family will be facing as being prepared for them will help you overcome them more easily. When mistakes happen, you should be prepared to own up to them and admit when you made the wrong choice. Show your kids that your entire family has to adjust to this new normal and will occasionally mess up. This honesty will encourage your teen to help you avoid making those same mistakes again.
Taking the Blame
Unfortunately children teenagers will often blame themselves for their parents divorce. They will find a reason, something small perhaps, that they did in the past that angered you or your spouse. They will use this to justify the reason for the divorce. You and your ex-spouse must make it extremely clear that your children are not the reason for a problematic marriage. It is the unfortunate truth that even though you may make this clear to them, they may continue to blame themselves into their adulthood. This sort of pain and guilt may knock a person off of their path down a dark road. To avoid lasting negative feelings about the divorce, you and your ex-spouse must reiterate that your children are not to blame.
There has rarely been a divorce that has happened without a fight. It is important to know that the heated arguments, the bitter comments, and the hostility will only do harm in the long term––especially if it is done in front of the children. This kind of behaviour should be avoided altogether, but in these highly-stressful situations sometimes you may slip up and snap. If you do act up, take that behaviour outside of the house or away from the rest of the family. After the argument, it’s important to tell your children that you had a fight, but you made up or at least moved on so your teens understand that fights happen, but they don’t have to be fatal to a civil relationship.
If you need to let off some steam, you might complain to your therapist or to your friends. You could go to a social place such as a bar and even talk it out with some strangers. Regardless, the fighting must stay as far away from the children as possible. It will scare them and fill them with the same pain and rage that you feel, which isn’t healthy. Parents who engage in conflict out in the open will set a bad example for their kids, and it will affect them in some way. Whether it comes out in school performance, how they treat authority figures, or even down the line once they enter their own intimate relationships.
Healthy Routines Under Pressure
During uncertain times, it is important to cling onto as much normalcy as possible. Even though the marriage may be falling apart it doesn’t mean that your or your spouse as individuals have to as well. Disorder can be beaten with a routine of stress-relieving actions. Exercise, proper diet, and quality sleep are completely in your control and play a huge role in maintaining a healthy chemical balance in your brain. Keeping a strict routine of wellness activities will improve your mood, resulting in better decision making, and fewer fights.
The best co-parents learn how to agree on a standard set of rules between their two households. The bedtimes, homework, chores, responsibilities, and language used in the house should be the same between you and your ex. Of course, it cannot and will not be exactly the same, but letting your kids know that there will be standards to uphold will help reinforce healthy behaviors.
It will be tempting to spoil your kids by bending the rules. It sounds satisfying to win your children over and become the “favorite” by showering them with gifts. Or to take revenge on your ex-spouse by allowing your children more freedoms when the kids are at your house. However, encouraging conflict over the rules isn’t productive for anybody. This kind of behaviour is common amongst divorced couples, but to truly demonstrate your love for your children, you should avoid using them as pawns in the break-up battle.
Everything Will Be Okay
Going through divorce is going to be one of the hardest things you do in your life, especially if you have children involved. Remember to see it as a challenge, but not an endless one. Keep the end in sight, knowing that one day your family will be able to move on and be happier than before. After all, no one gets divorced because they want life to get worse. Divorce is often the first step in a brighter future for everyone when a marriage simply doesn’t work out. Consider the guidelines listed in this article and everything will be okay!