Many parents have a hard time explaining divorce to teenagers. Once you’ve overcome the first hurdle—telling them that you and your spouse are divorcing—you’ll need to explain the situation effectively. Psychologists recommend giving adolescents only the information they need while reassuring them that both parent-child relationships will remain intact.
How Your Toronto Divorce Lawyer Can Help
In addition to helping you come up with a child custody agreement that works for your whole family, your Toronto divorce lawyer may also be able to refer you to a counselor or therapist who can help your teens adjust.
Generally, it’s a good idea for parents to talk to their teens together. However distasteful it may sound to sit down with your soon-to-be ex, kids often benefit from seeing a united front. This shows your child that you are both committed to parenting together, even though you’re splitting up; at the same time, you can both answer the questions your teen will most likely have.
Parental Support: It Goes Both Ways
Although you and your soon-to-be ex have chosen to end your marriage, you still have a long-term responsibility to your kids. Being the best parent you can includes working with your ex for your teen’s benefit when you need to, and you can (and should) ask the same in return.
If your ex is consistently uncooperative, fails to foster the appropriate relationship between you and your teen, or engages in parental alienation, let your Toronto divorce lawyer know right away. He or she might be able to help you get your “joint parenting” effort back on track.
Emotional Conflict Teens Feel During Divorce
Teens are subject to everyday emotional conflict; it’s part of growing up and gaining emotional maturity. Adding divorce to the mix usually creates more conflict. Your teen might need to use you as a sounding board, to spend extra time with you or your ex, or to be left alone to sort things out.
Positive Communication with Your Teen
A 13-year-old doesn’t have the emotional maturity to understand what an 18-year-old can, so using age-appropriate terminology and adjusting the amount of information you give is important. As you explain divorce to your teen, regardless of age:
- Do make sure he or she knows the bond between you two won’t change.
- Do make sure your teen knows you and your ex weighed your options carefully before coming to this conclusion.
- Do present your teen with solid facts, like when they’ll be with your ex, where they’ll live and who is keeping the family pets.
- Don’t bash your ex, no matter what he or she did to you, in front of your teen.
- Don’t over-share by giving your teen the sordid details behind your split; a simple “We’ve decided to go in different directions with our lives” is far more constructive than “Mom was cheating on me for two years.”
- Don’t ask your teen to spy on your ex or pass messages along.
Your teen will probably come up with new questions after your initial family talk, so be prepared to answer them honestly and to the best of your ability. There’s nothing wrong with telling your teen that you don’t have all the answers. If you and your teen are having a hard time communicating about the divorce, ask your Toronto divorce lawyer for a referral to a local counselor who can help.