How to talk to your teens about divorce

Talking to teens about divorce is one of the toughest conversations any parent can have. And since one out of every two marriages end in divorce today many parents are faced with having this conversation.

Usually teens are old enough to understand some aspects of divorce but most still have questions. Therefore, it’s important for you and your spouse to work together. Even if your divorce is amicable it can still impact how your teen adjusts to the new normal in your family.

If you and your spouse have made the decision to get divorced and are raising a teenager, expect a strong reaction when breaking the news.

Working as a Unit

How to tell your teens about divorce may be difficult but parents should be upfront as soon as possible. If a teen senses something is wrong but is confused they may become angry and distant. Often this reaction can lead to oppositional or self-destructive behavior that has long-term consequences.

Even in an amicable divorce it’s equally important that parents break the news together. This will reassure your teen that you are still unified as a family even though your marriage is ending. Choose a time that allows for them to cope, a time that doesn’t coincide with school events or other commitments. Give them the facts, don’t speak negatively about one another and be open to answering their questions.

Maintaining a sense of safety and unconditional support will also help your teen cope. While many parents focus on making sure younger children know they are loved unconditionally, reinforce it with your teens as well. In turn this will create a space in which your kids can openly express their feelings. Consider expanding your support system to include teachers, coaches, counselors, and therapists.

Keeping a Routine

When facing divorce, teens will often become angry about custody issues, changes in finances, moving, changing schools, and more adult responsibilities such as taking care of younger siblings. Keeping a steady routine and setting firm, but loving, boundaries and expectations will help your teen take the next steps. If changes must happen prepare your kids, talk to them about what the plan for those days will be ahead of time. Make the transition slow and steady.

Talking to your teen about getting a divorce can be hard but you don’t have to do it alone. One of the benefits of divorce mediation is it takes less time and money than litigation, allowing parents to focus more on the well-being of their children. Mediation also reduces conflict between parents which is a major factor in a child’s self-esteem and success in the future.