How Divorce Affects Children of Different Ages: Adolescents

undefinedIf you’re contemplating divorce in Portland¬†with an adolescent child in the house, you’ve likely wondered and worried about how they’ll react to the news, and how the divorce as whole will affect them. Any parent going through a divorce understands the anxiety that can accompany making a decision that seems it will be at the cost of their child. Remember—if this decision is right for you, then ultimately it is likely in the best interest of the family long term. In the meantime, understanding your adolescent child, as well as common reactions to divorce can help you formulate a plan to make the process as easy on them as possible. For this blog, we’ll be focusing on the affect of divorce on adolescent children.

Adolescent Children

Ages 11-18

While the ages of 11-18 years old certainly vary, the primary change in an adolescent’s life, regardless of if they’re just beginning their journey into adolescence or nearing the end, is their transition into independence.

Adolescent children are beginning to become more abstract thinkers, and are opening themselves up to different forms of self-exploration. As children grow up, they begin to be able to think outside of themselves, and aren’t quite so self-focused. Because of this, news of divorce may result in outward blaming, rather than inward blaming. Whereas a young child tends to blame him or herself for a divorce, an adolescent may have no trouble placing blame on his or her parents. This anger, or sometimes perceived hatred, is not unnatural, but can certainly make any parent feel both guilty and frustrated.

Another contrast is that adolescents are more aware and interested in their friends and peers, resulting in a natural progression towards independence. Upon the announcement of a divorce, while young children may become clingier to their parents, an adolescent child may pull away at an accelerated rate, showing a lack of interest in activities at home, especially if they feel the environment is hostile.

Amidst this experimental independence, the best thing a divorcing parent can do is keep an eye on activities that their child is participating in outside of school, and actively work on ensuring their adolescent is not involved in martial disputes that could create a tense household. Offer advice and check in with your child as much as possible, even if they act like they don’t want to talk. If the line of communication seems especially tense and you’re noticing extreme withdrawal or lashing out behavior, counseling may be a productive option in helping your child work through their frustrations or sense of loss—feelings that they may have a hard time expressing with you, their parent.

Breaking the news of divorce to your adolescent child is difficult, but with transparency, open-communication and necessary aid, they will work through the shift in family dynamic, at their own pace. Remember that, as rocky as it may feel in your household as they adjust and process, being steadfast in patience, support and even maintaining household expectations, will help get them through the transitory period.