Talking to your teenager about divorce

December 6th, 2021

Teenagers go through a huge range of emotions as they navigate through this part of their life. Chemical changes in their bodies can send their hormones into overdrive, making them more susceptible to mood swings, emotional struggles, and depression. Friendships that may last a lifetime are being established, while other teenagers may struggle to make the transition from childhood to adulthood.

While there is never a ‘good time’ for a couple to tell their children that they’re getting divorced, explaining the situation to teenagers can be even more challenging. Knowing what to say and how to deliver the news of a divorce can be a real struggle for parents. So what do you say? How do you talk to your teenager about divorce?

Understanding how divorce affects teenagers

Almost half of the divorces in the UK are between parents with teenage children, and that the age range most emotionally and psychologically affected by divorce fall into the 7-14 age bracket. The

reason is that at this age, children are already coping with a great deal of change within their lives, including physically, psychologically, emotionally, and socially. During this age, they’re making the transition from primary school to secondary or high school, and are busy establishing important social bonds. If they feel that the bonds at home are broken, it could have a drip-down effect on their personal social interaction with other people of their own age.

Physically, teenagers undergo a huge change during adolescence. Combine hormonal changes with a lack of world experience and the unnatural influence of social media and you have a potentially fragile young person who may be struggling to manage their emotional health. The addition of a family break-up could make the sense of alienation and isolation much worse. However, kids are not stupid and trying to pretend that everything’s fine when it’s clearly not will make the situation worse. They’ve probably already sensed that there’s tension between the parents, so it’s time to be honest with them, sit them down, and have a detailed conversation with them.

What do you say?

Firstly, don’t lie. And don’t play the ‘blame game’ – your teenage children will spot that a mile off. The key is to reassure them that what’s happening is not their fault. Don’t baby-talk them – they’re teenagers and want to be treated like young adults. They’re already familiar with the concept of divorce and may have experienced their friends going through the same process, as well as divorce storylines on television and in films.

It’s best if the conversation is carried out with both parents present so that there’s no chance of misunderstanding the situation from either party. While the relationship between the parents may be over, it’s important to demonstrate that the bond between both parents and the child or children is as strong and as loving as ever.

Make sure that you make time

This is a conversation that cannot be rushed. So make sure you put aside enough time to give them the chance to process what’s being said. Avoid those high-stress times in their lives such as during school exams or if they’re currently having boyfriend/girlfriend issues.

Let them respond

It’s vitally important that you listen to what your teenage child or children have to say about the situation. They may be angry, upset, or conversely, remarkably calm. But no matter how they react,

listen to them and try to help them come to terms with the situation. Encourage your teenage children to lean on support bubbles around them. Explain that you understand that they may not want to talk about how they feel with their parents right now, so having other friends and family who are supportive and know the situation can be a huge help. It’s also a good idea to let the school or college know what’s happening. This can help your teen at school if the teachers are aware and more mindful that unusual behaviour may be as a result of the situation at home.

Get professional guidance

Our family law experts can be here for you and your family every step of the way. If you’re going through a divorce and need help, reach out to find out more about how we can support you and your teenage children through this challenging time.