Divorce is a complex matter, and you’re more directly involved in the process than your children. You understand how much work it takes to go through the divorce, and the levels of stress often associated with it. If your child is older, how much should you tell them? Talking to a teenager about the divorce process depends on their age, maturity level, and ability to handle the information.
If you’re going through a divorce and have a teenager, here’s what can help you:
Talk plainly about the divorce. Within appropriate limitations, share a little bit about why the divorce is happening without going into every detail. For example, you could say that you and your child’s other parent had differences that could only be resolved with divorce. It’s important to reiterate the child has nothing to do with the divorce. Make sure they understand that you and your child’s other parent love and care for them.
Be transparent and honest about the changes that will follow the divorce. This could help your teenager prepare in advance if they are expected to change schools or move. Help them understand shared custody schedules but avoid unnecessary details or involving them in adult issues. Support them as they head to the other parent’s house, encouraging them to have fun.
Let your children ask questions
During this time of age, your teenager wants to understand more about the world around them. Keep an open line of communication and let your children ask questions. Create a safe space where your children know they can ask questions and will receive honest answers.
Some of these questions may be simple. For example, your child may ask if they will still get to see each of their parents. But other questions can be more complex, like why the divorce is happening. A big question that many children have is whether the divorce was caused by them. Reassure your child that the divorce had nothing to do with them.
Expect them to lash out
Teens are going through a lot of emotions. They’re experiencing hormonal shifts and their bodies are changing in many ways they don’t understand. As such, the inclusion of their parents’ divorce can be greatly upsetting.
It’s normal for teenagers to lash out when they don’t understand and disagree with matters going on in their lives. You may need to remind yourself that this is an ordinary process for most teens.
Understand your legal options
Before you talk to your teenager, it may help to understand your legal options and how a child custody plan will work after your divorce. By knowing what will change, you may have a better time talking to your teenager with confidence. Consider seeking guidance from a family therapist or counselor experienced in helping families cope with divorce.
If you’re considering divorce, an attorney can inform you of your legal rights and options if you have a child to consider.
Let Me Be Your Brave
Mia Poppe, Esq.