Support teenagers through a divorce
The loss of the known family unit causes emotional upheaval and distress for everyone involved, and there is a wealth of advice out there on how to manage your well-being and that of younger children.
But what about teenagers? (teens) There seems to be less information out there about the best way to tell them about a relationship breakdown and support them through it.
Teens are already navigating an emotional rollercoaster as they move into adulthood: social media, friendship groups, pressure from school, to name a few. Throwing the breakdown of their parents relationship into the mix can be overwhelming for them.
So, how can you support teenagers through a divorce? We asked Stowe guest regular Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder from My Family Psychologist to share her top ten tips on how to help support your teen as the family goes through a divorce.
Spend time together
Try to set some protected time alone with you and your teen each week to do something together. It could be watching a film, going shopping, cooking a meal together or playing a game. Even if your teen does not accept the offer, they will appreciate that you have made an effort to spend time with them.
Lend a listening ear
Getting teens to open up is often not an easy task, but listening openly to their concerns and feelings will reassure them that it is okay to talk to you without fear of judgment.
Ask open questions but try not to make it feel like they are being interrogated. Try not to interrupt or cut them off as this may make them shut down.
Using open communication may make your teen more willing to discuss their stress with you. Share your own experiences with them to make the pressures feel more relatable. Be sure to share positive thoughts.
Be a good role model
Whether teens like to admit it or not, they are still looking up to you and learning from you.
How you manage your stress through the divorce sets the example for your teen, so you need to be modelling healthy behaviour and stress management techniques in front of them.
Help them to determine what’s within their control and what isn’t
Teens today are often involved in multiple activities, especially if it is something they enjoy. Sometimes, even when extracurricular activities are proven to help their overall functioning, it can be overwhelming.
Discuss with your teen about how they can pace themselves by identifying which activities are more helpful to them and which ones could be dropped.
This can help take some pressure off and make room for necessary free time which can encourage more brain relieving stress management activities.
Get back to basics and develop an agreeable routine.
There is a possibility that the stress of the relationship breakdown has been felt for a longer period than you are aware of, and as a result, they have developed some poor lifestyle habits.
Create a routine with your teen which is consistent: for example, establish a sleep routine (aiming to get7-8 hours a night); reduce time on their phones and social media exposure; eat regular healthy meals and snacks and exercise for 30 minutes daily. These simple changes can have an impact on your teens’ ability to manage stress more effectively.
Coach your teen to use positive and calming ‘self-talk’
If your teen can recognise when they are feeling stressed about a situation, encourage them to have a collection of statements they can use to manage stressful situations.
The use of positive and calming self-talk statements can reassure them that the situation is manageable. Examples may be ‘stop and breathe’, ‘I can do this’, ‘this will pass’, ‘I am safe’ and ‘this won’t last forever’.
Teach work management skills
Teach your teen some basic ways to manage tasks, such as making lists or breaking larger tasks into smaller ones and doing one piece at a time.
A technique suggested to help individuals with low attention span and ADHD symptoms is the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ which works as follows,
- Work for 25 minutes (focused work)
- Take a 5-minute break
- Repeat 4 times (25 minutes of focused work then a 5-minute break)
- Then take a longer break of 15 – 20 minutes.
DO NOT demand perfection
None of us does everything perfectly. Expecting perfection from your teen is unrealistic and just adds stress. Encourage them to do things to the best of their ability and praise them when they achieve something or have done something they are proud of.
DO NOT try to solve your teenager’s problems.
As a parent, it is hard to see your child under stress, and you will naturally want to try and solve their issues. Try to resist solving your teen’s problems and instead, work together to brainstorm solutions and let your teen come up with ideas. Using this approach helps teens learn to tackle stressful situations on their own and give them a sense of autonomy and ownership.
Use self – help support and guidance
There are many online websites which offer guidance and exercises which may help your teen manage their stress. This is something you can do together, so that is not overwhelming or adding more pressure on to your teen.
It is important to be realistic that it is impossible to eliminate stress, but it can be managed effectively with the right techniques.
It will be a case of finding something which works for your teen, which may take time, but when you find something that works, encourage your teen positively and offer support.
Finding a happy medium of stress is the best way to move forward whilst promoting a healthy body and mind.
Get in touch
If you help to support teenagers through a divorce and you feel that they may need more professional support, then contact My Family Psychologist.
We provide services to individuals, parents and families to address a range of psychological issues including stress management, anxiety, depression and self-esteem.
Family law advice
If you would like any family law advice or information on how to support teenagers through a divorce please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here