What Parents Should Know About Treating Teens of Divorce

The teen years can be tough on anyone, but an adolescent going through the experience of a parental divorce can have a particularly rough time. If you are going through a divorce, you might wonder how your teenager will cope. One important part of divorce care for kids and teens is to get them counseling if they seem to be struggling. Read on to find out how the therapist or counselor can help teens of divorce.

Rates of Divorce

One thing you can be sure of is that your teenager will not be alone in navigating this situation. The divorce rate is often quoted at 50 percent. This is not exactly accurate, but it’s close. To be more specific, the divorce rate in the US in 2020 was 2.3 per 1,000 population. Your teen will not be the only kid in his or her circle of friends whose parents have split up. That being said, divorce is more common in younger people and younger marriages, so it’s possible that most of their friends of divorced parents have been in the situation for several years already.

Why is divorce difficult for teens to experience?

Teenagers are in a transition period in their lives. They are learning who they are in relationship to their families, their friends, and the community as a whole. In addition, they are finding themselves and learning what they like, what they dislike, and how they feel about a wide variety of topics. Their brains are developing and changing rapidly, and their hormones are fluctuating even more rapidly.

All of this leaves many adolescents in a bit of a tailspin on a good day, and they might struggle quite a bit on bad days. Although your teen might depend more on his or her friends than on you, the truth is that teens need the support of their parents, probably more than many of them let on. Your teen might be floundering with the large task of becoming an adult, and a divorce adds to the struggles that they’re facing.

What types of issues do teens of divorce experience?

There are several issues that teen of divorce might experience. Keep in mind that if your teen was already experiencing problems, they might get worse during a divorce. Seeking counseling for your teen can help them cope with these issues so they can better focus on growing and learning despite the divorce. Some of the problems that some teens might experience during a divorce include:

  • Difficulty at school: Your teen might find it hard to focus on academics and may see a decline in grades. He or she might also stop doing homework or stop studying for tests.
  • Fights with friends: Your adolescent might feel angry and overwhelmed, and because you and your spouse are hurting, might decide to take it out on his or her friends. Your teen might also feel like his or her friends are not able to give adequate support, which might dissolve the friendship.
  • Anxiety: Some teens respond to stressful situations by developing anxiety. Your teen might be afraid to do things they once enjoyed or might experience panic attacks.
  • Depression: Similarly, some teenagers will feel depressed while their parents are going through a divorce. Watch out for the signs of depression and seek help right away, particularly if they seem to indicate that your child might be considering suicide.
  • Problems in romantic relationships: While adolescent romances don’t often last for a long time, parental divorce can cause breakups, fighting, controlling behavior, and other issues. Teens with divorcing parents might also become sexually active sooner, which could lead to unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
  • Substance use and abuse: Some teens will self-medicate for stress, anxiety, depression, and sadness with the use of drugs or alcohol. It’s important for parents to remain alert and vigilant as to what their kids are doing, even though they are dealing with their own issues.

What are the steps to treating teens of divorce?

Once you seek help for your teen’s problems during the divorce process, the steps to treating teens of divorce will often include the following:

1. Develop a personalized treatment plan: The counselor will meet with your teen privately and will develop a treatment plan that will help him or her get through this difficult time. The specifics will depend on what your teen is going through. Treatment for a teenager who is turning to alcohol for relief will be different from the treatment for a teen who is having anxiety and doing poorly in school.

2. Conduct therapy sessions that address the effects of divorce on the teen’s life: Therapy might include group sessions as well as individual sessions. The counselor will help your teen develop real-life coping strategies that will help him or her overcome the negative effects that the divorce is having. The therapist can’t make the family situation better, but they can help your teen learn how to deal with his or her troubles and teach your teen skills that will help them overcome difficult situations not only now, but also in the future.

3. Hold family sessions to help improve the communication between the teen and parents: Improving the communication between the and the teen and also between the teen and his or her siblings can help the entire family navigate the divorce, and family therapy can accomplish this. Note that this is not a substitute for the parents getting their own counseling separate from the family sessions. Marital counseling and/or individual counseling can help you and your ex-spouse also learn to communicate better, which, in turn, can help your children feel more secure and might help them overcome some of their difficulties associated with the divorce.

Going through a divorce is never easy, and it’s hard for parents to know how to properly support teens of divorce. Seeking counseling for your teen (and for yourself, if needed) is one way that you can ensure that their mental health needs are met while you are struggling with the dissolution of your marriage. If you are concerned about how your teenager will cope, don’t hesitate to reach out to his or her doctor for a referral to a mental health counselor who can help.

Further Reading