Helping your children cope with divorce

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.


I cannot express this more strongly.


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 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.