Here's how to make sure they not only survive, but thrive, during this difficult time.
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.
|Dr. Janet Taylor is an Adult Psychiatrist in Private Practice in Chelsea (NYC). A consumer health strategist and certified life coach, her company, Mind Projects, Inc., specializes in corporate stress management and multicultural health strategies. Dr. Taylor has a column, "Ask Dr. Janet" in Family Circle magazine and is a frequent expert on national television. She lives with her husband and four daughters in Chappaqua, New York.|