Going through a divorce when you have young children can be difficult. It’s something parents often focus on when making decisions about their separation. What you do and the decisions you make throughout your divorce can have a heavy impact on your kids. But, it’s important to keep that in mind when you have teenagers, too.
Just because your kids are older doesn’t mean a divorce won’t be hard on them. In fact, they might struggle even more. Young children are often very resilient and will bounce back quickly after going through a life change. For teenagers who are more used to things being a certain way, it can be harder. Plus, your teen is already likely going through their own challenges as they navigate hormonal, educational, and social changes.
Fostering Resilience and Independence in Teens
So, what can you do to foster resilience and independence in your teen? How can you help them navigate independence after your divorce, even when you’re still dealing with the effects of it, yourself?
Helping Them Regulate Their Emotions
Don’t assume your teenager is “okay” with your divorce just because they seem fine with it on the surface. Their world has flipped upside down, and it’s important to acknowledge that. Unfortunately, teenagers usually see, hear, and experience more of the “behind-the-scenes” issues couples struggle with prior to divorce. So, it’s important to make sure you can offer support and help your teen understand, work through, and regulate their emotions. Some of the most effective ways to help them cope include:
- Being an active listener
- Avoiding arguing with your ex in front of them
- Putting your teen in the middle between you and your ex
- Being a positive role model
It’s also important to look out for signs of mental health issues, including anxiety or depression. Depression is more than your teen feeling moody or depressed. If they tend to feel like things are hopeless, they’re withdrawing from relationships and things they enjoy, and you’ve noticed changes in their eating or sleeping habits, don’t hesitate to offer your support and reach out to get them professional help.
Boosting Self-Esteem Through Independence
Your teenager might not need the same kind of support as a young child when they’re dealing with the effects of divorce. Instead of coddling them, now might be a perfect time to encourage their independence. One of the best ways to do that is by showing them you trust them. If your teen is old enough to drive, consider taking them vehicle shopping. Allowing them to get behind the wheel fosters independence, gives them a sense of responsibility, and can boost their self-esteem.
However, it’s important to know what to look for when vehicle shopping with your teen. Consider things like:
- The size and type of car
- Safety features
If your teen is going to be driving, you can also boost their sense of independence by encouraging them to get a part-time job. It’s a great way to help them gain experience, teach them responsibility, and give them something to look forward to. Depending on the job they choose, they’ll pick up important life skills, and learn how to set both short-and-long-term goals for themselves and their future. Plus, what teenager doesn’t like having a little extra spending money they can use to hang out with their friends or buy something they’ve had their eye on for a while?
Communication is an important part of the healing process for everyone involved in a divorce. Communicate openly with your former spouse and show your teen that you’re trying to co-parent effectively. Additionally, encourage open communication with your teenager. Let them know they can talk to you about anything, and they can come to you with needs, wants, or ideas.
Encouraging self-expression and creativity in your teenager, especially during a difficult time, can help them discover who they really are and who they want to be. As they learn more about their passions and identity, they’ll become more independent, resilient, and hopeful for the future. One of the easiest ways to foster that kind of expression is by letting them decorate their room. Home decor can impact your mental health more than you might think. It affects everything from sleep and comfort to focus and self-esteem. It can also help to reduce your teen’s stress levels when they feel like they have a safe haven to turn to every day. Let them get creative with their decor. You never know what kind of passion it might ignite within them.
Even when things end amicably, divorce is never easy. It will impact your whole family. While it’s essential to take time to manage your own mental health and practice self-care, don’t automatically assume that your teenager is “okay” with everything that’s changing. Check in with them, encourage them to take care of themselves and use this time to help them become more independent and resilient. In doing so, you’ll also help them to prepare for the future. They’ll use the skills and ideas they’re learning now to be more confident, stronger adults in the future.