Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.
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Your Teen and Your Divorce

All children process divorce differently and your teen will be no different.  They may be relieved if you and your spouse were constantly fighting or unhappy that mom and dad are no longer together.  They may experience a variety of emotions that they are unsure how to handle.  


What should you watch out for when raising a teenager and navigating through your divorce?

Regardless of their feelings about your split, it will be important for you to keep a close eye out for the following:

  1. Don't let them play off of mom and dad:  "Dad said I could do this," "Mom said you should buy me new sneakers."  "Mom said that she will pay half if you pay the other."  Whatever the case may, be do not allow your child to tell you what the other parent is going to do.  Check in with each other.  

  2. Create stability for your children:  Children of all ages need to know their schedules, how things are changing, and that they have two homes with parents who love them.  If you are all going to move then make sure they understand how they will see the other parent, attend school, and see their friends.

  3. Watch carefully and put support around them:  Your children are going through a substantial transition and need many forms of support.  Make sure that their guidance counselors are aware of your divorce so they can talk with the children and recommend a therapist as necessary.

  4. Realize boys and girls are going to process your divorce differently.  If you have a teenage daughter and son make sure you address their concerns and realize that they may have completely different fears causing anxiety.

  5. Don't badmouth your ex:  Your children have the right to be loved and supported by both parents throughout their childhood.  The divorce is going to be difficult enough, so make sure you do not say bad things about the other parent.

  6. Promote bonds with both parents:  continuing on from #5 - your teen needs both a mom and a dad so encourage him/her to enjoy their time with the other parent.

  7. Listen to complaints but be firm:  Your child may not like the fact that he/she needs to now move between two homes, live under two different sets of rules, and "go see mom who lives too far away from my friends."  Listen to their frustrations, acknowledge their feelings, but be the adult as they adjust to their new normal.

  8. Help them manage their emotions:  Your teens are going to have to process a significant number of emotions including shock, anger, sadness and even embarrassment - and sometimes all at once.  Make sure they know you are available to listen.

  9. It isn't their fault - so many children feel that their parents could have been happier if they had been a better child - maybe not gotten in so much trouble, earned better grades, or not have needed so much "stuff."  If your marriage was going to last it could have survived all of that - and your child needs to hear that from you.


When a teen goes through a divorce, communication is the key.  They need to know they can come to you when problems arise but they are going to need to also understand that the parents are in charge.

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