this is a guest post by Laura Anderson, MMFT who is a Marriage and Family Counselor in Nashville, TN who has worked with teenagers for 12 years. If you are in the Nashville area you can find her here
Parenting your teen through a divorce can be a test on every level.
During the teenage years an adolescent changes physically, emotionally, socially, mentally and relationally.
They try on different masks and personalities in order to find their fit.
In order to navigate these years of internal chaos it is important that they are provided stability in their home and with their parents. Though it seems as though teens enjoy rebelling (or at the very least, copping an attitude), adolescents thrive in an environment in which their parents provide structure.
Essentially this offers safety and a sense of stability that the teen can rest in when it seems that everything else internally and externally is in a constant state of chaos.
Divorce can be a very messy process. Not only are parents dealing with their own sets of emotions, feelings and new realities, but they are dealing with their children’s emotions, feelings and new realities as well.
It’s safe to describe the teen’s inner live as chaotic which is why stability in the home is so important.
When the parents of a teen go through the process of divorce, it can often times shake the teen to their core, as one of the only foundational and stable entities in their lives is suddenly pulled out from underneath them.
It’s easy to look at your child’s anger, explosive behavior, change in attitude or action as a way of dealing with their emotions. It’s also a reaction to the sense of instability that they are feeling when the dynamics of the home are changing.
Providing them with opportunities to speak freely their feelings, concerns and frustrations without becoming defensive will help. Affirming the “ok-ness” of these as well as practicing a “no-negative-talk” policy regarding the opposite parent all help the teen to feel secure.
It can also be helpful to enlist the support of adults (a youth leader, counselor, teacher, or a support group for teens with divorced parents) whom you trust to allow the teen other safe adults with whom they can process and receive encouragement.
Despite the external chaos that is going on in the family, it will be important to help the teen recognize that your love as a parent, for them, has not changed and that they can build trust in you to continue to support them and provide them stability and security both in the home and in life as they grow into the man or woman they were created to be.