Mediating Conflict,
Embracing Peace

The unique challenges of divorcing when you have a teen

Anyone who thinks that divorce is easier for parents of kids in their teens than for parents of younger children likely doesn’t have a teen. While they may better understand what’s happening than a child would, that doesn’t mean that parental divorce won’t have a significant impact on their emotional and possibly physical well-being.

While it’s crucial to be straightforward and honest with your teen about the divorce, that doesn’t mean they need to know everything. 

Don’t share too much with your teen

Too many parents make the mistake of confiding details about their marriage and their co-parent to their teen that they don’t need to know – and probably shouldn’t. As one divorce and co-parenting coach says, “As soon as an adult confides in their teen, you rob them of their childhood because you are putting them in an adult conversation that they are not prepared for emotionally or psychologically.” Like kids of all ages, teens should not be expected to take sides or feel like they have to support one or both parents through their divorce. 

Watch for signs of distress

The stress and anxiety of parental divorce can affect teens in a multitude of ways. They may become depressed. They may be unable to sleep or sleep too much. They may act out at school or with siblings or teammates. They may turn to drugs or alcohol. Teens may take out their anger or feelings of loss of control on their parents. They may play one against the other to get what they want.

Maintain consistency

Kids of all ages, including teens, typically adjust to divorce better when parents maintain consistent rules and expectations across households. When parents can present a united front, at least on the big issues, most teens will feel less stress and anxiety about their own future. They’ll also be less likely to try to manipulate one or both of them.

It’s crucial to create a parenting plan for your teen. While it will look different than one for a toddler or grade-school-age child, it’s still an important blueprint for the two of you as you learn to co-parent. It will also show your teen that their parents are focusing on their well-being.