Effects of Divorce on Teenage Sons or Daughters


January 10, 2013

parents fighting

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Are you worried about the effects of divorce on your children? In this article, Sheila O’Malley from Practical Parenting has some useful tips for parents on the subject of effects of divorce on teenage sons or daughters.

Separation and divorce is a tough and painful experience for any family. More than 100 families separate every week in the Republic of Ireland and that rate is on the increase.  If you are one of these parents, you are probably experiencing one of the most stressful times of your life. In struggling to cope, it may be difficult for you to find the time to monitor how your teenagers are coping with the separation of their parents.

Don’t let your Breakup lead your Teen to Breakdown

unhappy-teen-parents-fighting_0For a teen, a separation means an end to family life as they know it. Suddenly everything changes at home and the future is unknown. A teenager can feel shell shocked, confused, and powerless. Some may be concerned about off loading onto you.

Other young adults may be angry and volatile towards you or the other parent as a result of the sadness they feel at the breakdown of their family as they knew it.

Whatever your child/teen may be expressing , it is important to get across to them that they can be supported through this in whatever way they may feel comfortable with, i.e. individual counselling, family support counselling or simply just talking to you if that feels right for them.

Conflict between Parents can be Difficult

Conflict between parents is very difficult for any child to negotiate through. They are 100% dependant on their parents and consequentially conflict frightens them. They can feel they are being asked to take sides and yet feel a loyalty to both. They can become pawns between parents who are in dispute over money etc. If they are older, they may be supporting you, yet who do they have to support them? It is vital you reconcile your relationship – for the sake of your children.

Dads need to Stay Involved

unhappy-teen-dad_1In Ireland, after a separation happens, 30% of fathers cease to have any involvement in their children’s lives. The loss of a parent in the home leaves children feeling abandoned.

A son will lack the absence of a male role model. For son or daughter if the most important man in your life abandons you, it is difficult for that child to trust any other male.

Every very large scale, long term study of family life shows the absence of fathers is the biggest challenge facing Western society today. It is the biggest single contribution to troubling behaviours a child shows (anger, aggression, drink, drugs, crime, and underachievement in schools).

Feedback from Children following a Separation 

‘I can’t wait to go back to my parents being my parents;  they’re both treating me like their friend and telling me everything’.

‘Don’t assume that we are okay, even if we say that we are. How can we be okay when everything has changed and nothing is actually okay anymore?’

‘ Please don’t criticise my other parent in front of me, I hate it when you do that, I’m half of both of you, so when you rubbish each other, it feels like you rubbish part of me’

RelatedTeen Between provides counselling for teenagers of separated parents.

Tips to remember : 

  • It is vital to reconcile your relationship – for the sake of your children
  • Parents always do their best, but their best is determined by their interiority
  • Your teenager does not want you to be critical of his/her other parent
  • Try to recognise your teens feelings ‘this must be really difficult for you’
  • Seek first to understand your son/daughters concerns
  • Be aware of not overloading your young adult with your emotional ‘stuff’
  • Your teenager does not want to play private detective, messenger or confidante

About the Author

Sheila O’Malley is one of Ireland’s leading Parenting experts who established Practical Parenting to offer support and training to Parents. She facilitates many corporate programs and delivers talks around personal and family wellbeing.

Have you any tips for other parents on teens and the effects of divorce in particular? Share them in the comments below

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