Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

Handling a late teen during your divorce: They still need support

As a parent, you know your child best. You know how mature they are and if they are able to recover well when dealing with bad or shocking news. The idea of going through a divorce might not phase you, because you're an adult and have been preparing for it. However, if your teen doesn't yet know, it's time to think about how you want to approach this delicate situation.

Since your teen is already driving and old enough to take care of themselves, you may think that they won't need much support to adjust to this divorce. That could not be further from the truth. While teens may be somewhat better equipped to handle the physical parts of the divorce, like driving to mom's or dad's house or staying home alone for a few hours when their parents are at work, the reality is that the psychological aspects of divorce still impact them.

No matter how old your kids are, a divorce is a major crisis. Teens are already dealing with everything from raging hormones to difficult tests to get into a good university or work program. They may struggle with anxiety, depression and self-doubt. Adding a divorce to that can make things worse for them if it's not approached the right way.

How can you help your teen during a divorce?

The good news about teens is that they're old enough to say what they need and to explain why they're upset, angry or otherwise inclined during a divorce. You and your spouse should sit down and break the news to them together. Then, listen. They may have questions, be angry or be upset. Let the situation play out, and just be there for them.

It is possible that the divorce could threaten your child's identity and make them question themselves. It may be a good option to set them up with a few short therapy visits so that they have someone to talk to other than yourself or your spouse. You can even frame it as wanting to make sure they can talk to someone who isn't related or a friend, so they can get an outsider's view and be able to vent when they need to.

Teens may appear mature, but the reality is that all children need the love and support of their parents and may feel upset by a divorce. With patience, you will be able to see your child through this difficult time.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

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