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Help Your Teen Survive Your Divorce

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Here's how to make sure they not only survive, but thrive, during this difficult time.

mom consoling teen because of divorce

Dr. Janet Taylor: There is nothing easy about a couple making a decision to end their marriage. One million children in the U.S. will experience divorce every year.

The long-lasting emotional impact on families, and in particular their teens, is well-documented but not entirely clear. Some studies link a divorce as a stressor on par with the death of a parent, and child neglect and abandonment. Pretty strong stuff. Other researchers state that divorce is stressful for teens because of the process of living through all of the conflict, uncertainty, and sometimes misery before the divorce is finalized.

Teens may be exposed to physical and emotional violence at home, and feel like they have to be referees for their parents and are forced to take sides. This may be happening when all they really want to do is watch "Gossip Girls" or ESPN in peace.

For most teens, no matter how bad the marriage is, they experience divorce as a loss. The loss of a parent, family structure, financial changes, and just plain feeling different. Their internal angst may be played out with an increase in aggressiveness or acting out, as well as dents to their self-esteem.

What can you do?

Parental support from both parents is critical, as long as the other parent is psychologically stable. For a teen, a loss of contact or time can feel like being kicked to the curb. Pay attention to your teens' friends, set limits, and spend time with your teen. A supportive school and home environment with high levels of parental monitoring is needed. Your teen needs to know that you care, are watching them, and are able to tolerate all of their emotions.

Divorce happens. So does good parenting.

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mae August 11, 2009, 4:26 PM

My parents divorced when I was 14, and both remarried within six months. With both of them taking on a new set of priorities, I was largely unsupervised as a teen. I think the worst part was, as this article puts it, being “kicked to the curb.” I was old enough that nobody felt the need to “coddle” me, but really, too young to be suddenly made an independent person with no adult advocate to speak of.

Nell August 13, 2009, 1:07 PM

I have been a member of a large blended family for many years and have seen the effects of divorce on both children and parents. Divorce does put children at psychological risk, but the good news is that parents can take steps to lessen this risk if they will reduce their own stress, reduce co-parent conflict, and practice protective parenting by monitoring, establishing routines and being consistent. I am involved with a project that teaches parents how to do this. I invite divorcing parents to check out this online project at

Cory Aidenman October 31, 2009, 3:23 AM

It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.

tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:25 AM

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