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How to Talk to Your Teen About Divorce
Even though teenagers are more emotionally developed than children, don’t make the common mistake of assuming that your teen’s heightened maturity levels will help him cope with your divorce more easily.
During a time when your teen is already learning how to survive the changes of adolescence, he thrives on continuity at home. Your marriage is something that he has relied on his entire life, and getting through its’ demise can shatter his world – it can feel like a death, and he will mourn accordingly. Learning how to support and understand your teenager through your divorce is crucial to his continued emotional growth.
When to Break the News
Even when you try to shade your teen from the troubles and obstacles in your marriage, he has likely picked up on tension and warning signs of divorce. Once the decision to dissolve your marriage has been made, there is no longer a reason to leave your teen in the dark. In fact, if you hold off there is a chance that he will find out on his own and feel deceived and betrayed. According to a Gallup poll, 71% of teenagers believe that their divorcing parents should have tried harder to make their marriage work. Telling him early on will also allow you the opportunity to explain your reasons for dissolving your marriage.
How Much Information to Divulge
Because your teen is maturing and slowly reaching adulthood, it may be tempting to spill the beans and all of the reasons, significant and petty, that you are getting a divorce. Sometimes parents unknowingly trash their spouse and try to get their teen on “their side,” simultaneously alienating him from the other parent. Although it is important for your teen to understand logistical information about your divorce, and even some of the things that led to the ultimate decision, the gruesome details can be omitted. Remain honest, but exercise restraint.
Assure your Teen that He or She is Not to Blame
When parents divorce, children of all ages tend to endure some level of guilt and anxiety. If you fail to explicitly address the notion of blame and reassure your teen that his actions have in no way led to your divorce, he will likely bear the burden of responsibility. Explain to your teen that although you are all in this situation together and will support each other through this hard time, the decision to divorce was made solely because you and your spouse could no longer make things work. Removing the blame from your teen’s reaction to your divorce will allow him to cope with it in a much healthier manner.
Preparing for your Teen’s Future
Divorce can affect the way your teenager behaves socially, perceives romantic relationships and acts out in rebellion. He may experience strong emotions and have sudden outbursts at home and at school. Divorce can also impact your teen’s view on marriage and leave him with a negative outlook on the longevity of romantic relationships. If your openness, love and support aren’t enough to keep your teenager emotionally stable during this process, you may consider the involvement of a doctor or therapist who can use their trained knowledge to help him manage.
The court may order a 30-day stay of dissolution of marriage proceedings when it appears that there is a reasonable possibility of reconciliation. This is up to the judge and is typically only exercised when one spouse comes forth and states that he or she would like to try to save the marriage through counseling.
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