Your Toronto divorce lawyer will always be courteous, respectful, knowledgeable and understanding. A client and his/her Toronto divorce lawyer will engage in constructive conversations, never corrosive critiques. A similar approach should be taken when a parent is speaking to his/her teen. It is important to engage in positive and affirming behaviour both through language and non-verbal communication.

1. DO Validate Their Feelings
If your teen expresses feelings of sadness, distress or anger, it is important to validate those emotions. Your teen needs to know that you have heard their cry for help and you value his/her open and honest communication. Some suggested responses are:

  • I understand that you’re upset; I’m having a hard time with the divorce too.
  • This must be really hard for you.
  • Feeling sad or angry is a normal emotion, it’s okay that you feel that way.
  • Thanks for sharing how you feel; I’m a little scared about the future too.

Toronto divorce lawyers are excellent communicators. Ask your Toronto divorce lawyer for other ways to validate your teens’ emotions.

2. DO Take Charge and Take Action
If and when you believe your teen is demonstrating signs of depression or any other form of mental illness, be sure to take action immediately. Set up a meeting with his/her schoolteacher, guidance counselor, club supervisor or sports coach to discuss any changes in your teen that they may have noticed. Feel free to consult with your Toronto divorce lawyer to help find the best resources such as a reputable child psychologists or mental health professionals.

Most teens don’t know how to ask for help or are too shy, ashamed or proud to do so. It is your job as the parent to do this work for them. Do not wait around to “see if he/she will get better on his/her own.” It is imperative to take action immediately.

3. DO Demonstrate Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Children and teens learn through listening. They also learn through modeling. This is particularly important for the same-sex parent of the teen. Studies continuously show that the same-sex role model has a greater influence on the behavioral development of the teen. Nevertheless, both parents should express and display healthy coping alternatives.

Be honest with yourself. If you do not have healthy coping mechanisms, it is recommended that you too seek professional help. Your Toronto divorce lawyer can assist you in identifying appropriate resources. Unhealthy coping mechanisms include:

  • Substance abuse;
  • Verbal or physical violence;
  • Self-hatred, self-blame or guilt;
  • Overindulgence in food or drink; and
  • Denial or disengagement from the issue.

Healthy coping mechanisms include:

  • Talking to someone, whether a professional or friend;
  • Meditation;
  • Exercise;
  • Journaling or writing;
  • Creating art or music;
  • Engaging in hobbies or group activities;
  • Engaging in spiritual or religious activities; and
  • Surrounding yourself with loved ones.

4. DO Listen to Non-Auditory Communication

Toronto divorce lawyers are aware that listening occurs in its primary form at an auditory level. They also know listening also entails observation and inquiry. Look for cues or signs that might indicate that something is wrong with your teen. While his/her words are a strong indicator, teens may find it difficult to articulate exactly how they feel. Other indicators include:

  • A dramatic change in disposition;
  • Severe and uncharacteristic mood swings;
  • Everyday tasks and challenges become extremely difficult;
  • Increased anxiety or stress;
  • Decreased interest in activities that he/she once loved;
  • Spending less time with friends or family;
  • Changes in behaviour at school or missing school;
  • Changes in personal appearance, dress or body type;
  • Physical illness and lethargy;
  • Increase aggression or outbursts of anger;
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping;
  • Loss of appetite or overindulgence in food;
  • Signs of substance abuse such as drugs or alcohol;
  • Commentary about changes in your teen from friends, parents of friends or school professionals.

Talking to Teens about Divorce – Part 1: Special Attention for Adolescents
Talking to Teens about Divorce – Part 2: The Do’s and Don’ts of Discussion
Talking to Teens about Divorce – Part 4: The Don’ts of Discussion