Helping Your Children Cope With Divorce

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I was 14 years old when my parents divorced. 

When websites talk about helping your children cope with divorce they're usually talking about children aged 0-12. I am writing this post because if you are going through a divorce or separation you need to be thinking about your tweens and teens too. 

Your tweens/teens may tell you they're fine, they may not seem any different at first glance, but believe me they are hurting.



The break up of a family is traumatic for everyone involved.

The lead up to my parents divorce was clear for everyone to see. They argued constantly. I would hear them yelling at each other. I'd hear the names they would call one another and I felt the tension when everything went quiet. 

I remember them trying to hide it from my younger sisters but it got so bad at one point that my middle sister ended up crying in the corner of the room while covering her ears with her hands. It was a time I don't particularly like to remember.

And that is exactly why I am writing this.

Tweens and teens may be affected by your divorce more than you'd imagine. 

As the parent you think they can cope better than your younger children. 
You think they are old enough to understand the complexities of your relationship. 
You might even believe that they don't need your support.

YOU ARE WRONG.



I cannot express this more strongly.

STOP RIGHT NOW.

Think about it. 

Are there some days when you just want to scream?
Are you unable to control your emotions?
Are you hurting?

If you answered yes to those questions, and you're an adult, how do you think a tween or teen is feeling?

Imagine your pain combined with the raging hormones of adolescence.

Tweens and teens do not have the capacity to understand the complexities of an adult relationship. They can't see why you're both unhappy, they can't see that it isn't working anymore, and they can't understand why you can't just work it out.

When my father left the family home I became his replacement. My biological mum turned to me for support. She asked me to take care of my sisters while she went out at night drinking. She screamed and shouted about my father. She called him names, she told me he was an awful dad, she tried to turn me against him. 

My father lived more than 90 miles away and I didn't get to see him for months on end. 

When people asked me how I felt about what was going on I put up a facade and pretended that I didn't care. I spouted the usual nonsense about having two Christmases and getting more presents on birthdays. 

Truth be told I was deeply hurt.

I felt like not only had I lost my dad but I had lost my family and myself.

I had to grow up fast. My mum would come home after a night of drinking and I'd have to take care of her when she ended up in the bathroom all night. I had to be the strong one. I had to prove to everyone that I could do it.

I was 14.

No one talked to me about how I felt.
No one offered to help.
No one could see my pain.

At 14 my grades started to dip.
At 14 I started to skip school.
At 14 I got involved with the wrong crowd.
At 14 I started drinking alcohol.
At 14 I lost myself.



My mum wasn't interested in talking to me about it. My father lived miles away. I was alone.

My life took a turn after my parents divorce and it took many years for me to truly recover.

If my mum had talked to me openly about the divorce things may have been different.
If my mum had told me she still loved me I may not have needed validation from others.
If my mum had BEEN THERE, I may not have turned to alcohol.

To be honest I don't know what may have been, but what I do know is that I wasn't given the chance to find out. 



Below I'm listing a few tips on how to help your children (tweens and teens) cope with your divorce. The tips come from me, they're what I wish I'd had when my parents were going through their divorce. 

If I can stop one child going through what I did then I'll be happy.



Listen to your children


Answer any questions your children may have and be honest. Allow them to discuss their pain, their disappointment, or even their anger. Be there, with a listening ear, whenever they need it.


Tell your kids you love them


This is SUPER important. 

Your children need to be reassured. They need to know you still love them even though your family is not together anymore. They need to see that you haven't changed how you think of them. They need to KNOW that you will love them no matter what. 

That might sound like a silly thing to say but many adults, when going through divorce, tend to forget this very simple thing. They become swept up in their own pain and suffering that they forget the children are suffering too.

Reassure your children.


Talk honestly and openly about your divorce


Tweens and teens feel like they understand what is happening so you need to be honest. Don't patronise them, don't try to make them think "it's all going to be okay" - they won't listen. Be honest about your feelings... but don't use them as a crutch. 

Don't unload all of your deepest darkest secrets onto your children, seek other adults for that.


Keep routines and boundaries


After a divorce things are thrown into turmoil and it's easy to forget about routines and to let your rules slide a little. Whatever you do DO NOT let this happen. Your tween/teen is already experiencing changes that are difficult to cope with and if you allow them to push boundaries they will keep pushing. Your children need to know that you have not changed. You need to let them know what you will and won't stand for. 


Protect your children from adult worries


Do not add to the stress of divorce by discussing money worries or partner issues with your children. Talk to family, friends or other adults.


Don't argue with/talk about your ex-husband/wife in front of your children


Your children love BOTH OF YOU. You may have fallen out of love with your husband/wife but they are still the child's father/mother. You need to try and hide your hostile feelings for your partner from your children.

If you feel the need to vent do it out of earshot of your children.



Lastly, do not forget about yourself.

Don't bottle up your own feelings. 
Don't drown your sorrows in alcohol. 

Talk. 

Talk to friends.
Talk to family.
Talk to whoever will listen, as long as they're an adult. 

If you can cope you'll be able to help your children cope with your divorce.

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23 comments:

  1. It sounds like a very very difficult time which must have had a lasting impact. Some of it resonates with me, especially parents treating teens as adults to confide in. It sounds like very sage advice you are giving (which I hope not to need).

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    1. Thanks Louise. It was a tough time but I'm happy to say that I have a lovely mum now who is very supportive (as is my dad). Luckily I've been able to come out the other side. I do hope this post helps someone though, it's something that is obviously close to my heart. :)

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  2. Ick, what a rough time to go through something like that. My home life was fine and I was still a wreck personally when I was 14. Horrid not to have the support you needed either. I hope this post reaches the ears/eyes it needs to x

    #fartglitter

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    1. Thanks hun. I know that the teenage years are fraught anyway but having to survive your parents divorce too just adds to the issues. I do hope I can help someone. Thanks so much for stopping by. xx

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  3. Morgan this is such a brave, honest and valuable piece of writing. I was 8 when my parents divorced and it impacted my massively. I can see how parents might underestimate how dramatic this can be for a teen, wrongly thinking that they're grown up enough to handle it. Fantastic advice and tips for any family going through this and I think that you are amazing for sharing your story with a view to helping others. xx

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    1. Thank you so much Dawn. I have to admit I was a little nervous about publishing this one, it's a little more close to home than I would normally write. x

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  4. What a powerful post! Indeed I think people presume that the older the children, the more they would be able to understand but we fail to realise that they are still children. I am so sorry to read what you had to go through x Thanks for sharing with #PasstheSauce

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    1. Thanks so much El. It was a tough time, and it's taken me a long time to be able to really talk about it, but I'm hoping that in doing so I will help other teens/tweens not go through what I did. x

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  5. Great tips. My parents divorced when I was 12 and it was really rough - even though I never heard them fight and they appeared to do the co-parenting thing really well (I'm sure there was unpleasant/difficult stuff going on behind the scenes but I was never let in on it.) I can't imagine going through a divorce AND trying to carry the burden you did at 14.

    I would also say that because divorce is so traumatic, please please make absolutely sure that there is no other way before you head down that road. Divorces require sustained hard work and are emotionally draining and exhausting for both parents, and deciding to work that hard on your marriage instead might often prove to save it (and keep your kids' family intact.)

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    1. I totally agree with you Jenny. Although I think that if your children are seeing you argue and fight all the time that's not doing anyone any good. Absolutely try to work things out, divorce should be the last resort. It was a tough time, but if I'm honest I learned a lot and became a stronger person as a result.

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  6. An excellent post Morgan, only a person who lived through the divorce of their parents could give such advice. It must be really hard on a teenager, who already have enough on their plate just by being a teenager.

    I am lucky enough not to have experienced divorce, so can only imagine how it must make all parties feel.

    xx

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    1. Thanks Debbie, I can't imagine what it must've been like for my parents going through the divorce. AND I hope never to understand that side of it. But as a child who went through it I hope to give parents insight into how their children may be feeling. It's easy to forget about the teens in such situations because they put up that bravado.

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  8. What a brave post to write, my parents divorced when I was very little so I don't remember it at all. I've always said it would be worse the older the child is. Being a teenager is a difficult time, let alone having to deal with a parents divorce. Great advice and tips for anyone going through it.x #marvmondays

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    1. Thanks so much, it was definitely a difficult time but I was lucky to have come out the other side with support from my dad and stepmum. :)

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  9. Those who go through the similar situation better understands and feel the grief of others. Being a child its very courageous to share your sufferings and thoughts. I am a Divorce Lawyer based in Delhi and I prefer to suggest people to go for divorce with Mutual Consent so that the children do not suffer in any matter.

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    1. I think no matter what, the breakdown of a marriage and subsequently the family unit is going to make everyone suffer in some way. It is a traumatic experience no matter what. It's better if the adults can be "adult" about things and not argue in front of the children but that's not always what happens. The adults really need to consider the whole family. I appreciate your comment, thank you for stopping by. x

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  10. Sent this off via Twitter as I always hope that posts like this find their way into the hands of those who need them. Knowing that you're not alone can be really helpful. Sending hugs as this sounds really difficult and this is a really brave post.

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    1. Thank you so much hun, for sharing and for your kind words. It was a difficult time and I was lucky to be able to lean on my dad and stepmum eventually. I do hope that my post can help someone. xx

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  11. It sounds like you went through an absolutely awful experience with your parents divorce. I cant imagine anything more painful for any child. Its great that you came out of it the other side eventually and are able to share this post and the tips within it with others. I am sure that it will help so many others that are going through painful experiences like this. Thanks for sharing it on #MarvMondays. Emily

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    1. Thanks so much Emily. I'm glad to have come out the other side, it was definitely a difficult time. I can only hope that by writing this post I help at least one other person know they are not alone and things do get better.

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  12. This is a brilliant post reminding parents how much divorce can affect kids. I have some firsthand experience of being a child of divorce too.

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    1. Thanks. Yes it's not fun being a child of divorce, but as long as the parents can see how it affects the children and they talk about what is happening it could help. xx

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