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Preventing the Harmful Mental Health Effects Divorce Has on Children and Teens

teen reaction to divorce

When two people make the decision to get married and start a family, their intentions are likely to spend a life of bliss together. Unfortunately, love isn’t always the utopia we’d like it to be — marriage sometimes ends in divorce. When you make the decision to get divorced and you have teenagers, this can make it an even more complex matter to deal with.

Although many teens tend to be flexible and adapt well to change, divorce can still have detrimental effects on their mental health and wellbeing. This is understandable seeing as they have to deal with both the breakdown of their home and their unique teenage struggles. In light of this, it’s essential you do all that you can to make sure they come out of it healthy and whole.

Research shows that divorce can increase the risk of negative outcomes in physical, mental, and educational wellbeing, but you can achieve a more positive result. However, in order to do so, you’re going to need the right tools as well as a strong support system. With that being said, here are some words of advice for parents of children or teens who may be going through a difficult divorce.

Communicate Openly

There is no such thing as a perfect time to get a divorce, as it’s different for each individual. However, in situations where there happens to be ongoing high conflict, it may be best for you and the kids if you separate. With that being said, when you do decide that divorce is the path that you want to take, you should tell your children as soon as possible.

How you tell your kids about divorce depends on the agreement you have with your spouse as well as how old your children are. Although there isn’t an easy way to break the news, ensuring they understand how the divorce will change their daily lives is important. The most evident changes will likely be in where they live and how frequently they see each parent, so easing their fears about this could help make it a less traumatic experience.

Also, make it clear that they can ask questions and raise any concerns they have at any time they want. In the case that they’re not ready to talk, avoid forcing meaningful conversations and let them know you’ll be there to listen when they’re ready. Remember that divorce happens in stages, so you should be mindful to continue communicating with them at every stage.

Seek Professional Advice

Sometimes, the mental health challenges that come about as a result of divorce can be overwhelming for all parties involved. For this reason, many families that are going through a divorce decide to seek family therapy. It can be a way to prevent common effects like feelings of shame, guilt, or sadness.

Another instance that you may need professional advice is if you notice your child is experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. If this does happen, take him or her to see someone who can provide the right support whether it be individual counseling or prescription drugs to manage symptoms, making sure to consider any risk factors. It’s also important that you monitor medication dosages and ensure the child is taking them as prescribed by the doctor.

Another form of professional help to consider for your kids could be a school counselor. This could be helpful, seeing as it isn’t uncommon for children or teens who are experiencing divorce to begin having behavioral challenges or underperform at school. By teaming up with educators, you should be able to come up with solutions to help mitigate the negative effects divorce has on your child.

Look After Yourself

Divorce can become so overwhelming that you forget to look after yourself. Not only are you having to deal with the grief that accompanies a marriage ending, but you’re also having to put on a poker face for your kids. If you don’t take the time out to manage your mental health, it could lead to stress and depression during your divorce and even after it.

To preserve your physical and mental wellbeing, find time to process your feelings and do things that make you feel good. A few ways to do this would be to write your thoughts down in a journal, engage in physical activities, or pick up a hobby. Also, try decluttering and finding smart organization solutions as a means of making your home life easier and reducing stress.

Looking after yourself is also a must as your kids will need effective parenting from you to get through a divorce. Research shows that the quality of parenting given to kids is a factor in how well they cope. They need both warm support and discipline, which you should be better able to provide when you look after yourself.

Be Amicable With Your Ex-Partner

Whether you initiated the divorce or not, it can be tough for all parties involved. This can cause conflict between you and your partner as well as feelings of resentment, hostility, and anger. It’s crucial that you avoid ongoing conflict, however, as it can be toxic for your teenagers.

Mediation is one of many ways to resolve conflict, especially concerning matters such as custody, division of property, and other finance related issues. It is also important for both you and your spouse to be patient with one another as you could both be experiencing a level of emotional turmoil and stress. If you’re able to find a common ground, then it should be easier for both of you to focus on providing for your children’s needs.

It’s also important you get along with your ex-spouse because it could help manage your teen’s anxiety, if that’s a problem. Successfully co-parenting should be your ultimate goal so irreversible damage isn’t done to your kids’ mental health and wellbeing.

Maintain a Routine

When you’re going through a divorce, things can get chaotic, and this could impact your children’s mental health. Some specific signs you may notice include them engaging in risky behavior, growing resentment towards parents, or impulsive behavior. To help prevent this, try sticking to routines to help keep them grounded and create stability.

In practical terms, this may translate into simple things such as maintaining household responsibilities, having set family dinner times, and keeping your kids engaged in activities. A tidy and organized environment can do more than you’d imagine for their mental health and make it easier for them to cope with the divorce.

It is important you maintain and even strengthen your child-parent relationship during a divorce to ensure your children feel loved. This can be done by making a conscious effort to spend quality time with them and, if possible, upholding family traditions. This is one of many ways to reassure your kids that even though they have a new family structure, the love you have for them and the bond you share is never going to change.



Author Bio: Magnolia Potter is from the Pacific Northwest and writes from time to time. She prefers to cover a variety of topics and not just settle on one. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her outdoors or curled up with a good book. Chat with her on Twitter @MuggleMagnolia.

Image Source: Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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