Divorce signals the end of one chapter in the lives of the people involved. For the children of parents going through a divorce, the impact can be overwhelming and confusing. Teens have inevitably seen examples of divorce from their friends’ parents and on TV, many of which may have likely been negative portrayals of the process that is going to take place.
According to Christine Hammond, family counselor and founder of Grow With Christine, divorce is hard for a child regardless of their age. A common mistake that parents make with older children is that they turn to them for advice and tend to overshare details the teen may not want or need to hear.
Hammond shares some of her top tips on what your teen needs to hear you say during a divorce. But she warns that saying these statements is not enough; they need to see you live out your words in the actions that follow.
Reminder: This is not your fault.
As Hammond shares, kids are naturally self-centered and do not yet have the brain development required to see that some events are not about them. Many children will feel a lot of guilt and blame following a divorce.
Telling your teen in different ways that the divorce had nothing to do with them will help to reassure them over time.
We love you
This statement cannot be overused in the days, weeks, and months following the announcement of your divorce. Your teen may be internalizing a lot of emotions or interpreting the arguments that take place as if they are the topic of them.
When it comes to custodial arrangements and parenting plans, you’ll likely be dissecting your teen’s day-to-day and using their name frequently. Try to keep these kinds of conversations private. For example, wait to talk until your child is asleep, or they are away from your home with a mediator.
Divorce is a new chapter, but it does not erase the last one.
There are many ways that you can say this, but the significance remains the same. According to Hammond, you need to remind your child that the marriage between their parents was not a mistake. Blaming the marriage rather than the people involved may lead a child to believe that they are also a mistake along with the marriage.
By framing it as the family moving towards a new chapter, you make it possible to help your teen find healthy ways to understand the imminent.
You are the child, and we are the adults.
This is another way to remind your teen that they are not responsible for your wellbeing or any logistics surrounding your decisions. Reinforce the understanding that there are many adults in their life who are working together to help them.
Consider looking for a mental health counselor or child therapist in your area who can be an unbiased third-party resource for your child during this time.
We are here for you.
Remind your teen that you and your co-parent are both resources for them. By telling them that they can turn to you at any time, you keep the door open for future conversations or questions that might come up.
Even in the most amicable divorces, keeping the lines of communication clear and unalterable is important to maintaining a successful co-parenting relationship. Using Talking Parents for your calls, messages, and calendar can help you avoid misunderstandings and create clear Records of your interactions should there ever be conflict in the future. Streamlining your communication channels will also allow you to remove your children t from the role of “messenger” between your homes and allow both parents to make decisions together.