Teenagers of divorce may go through the end of the parents’ marriage a little harder than many other age groups. Their emotional state already may be all over the map, and adding that into the mix does not help the situation.
During the school year, they have enough on their plate. High school can be a complex and emotional time for a teen, and with all that they have to manage, they may look to hide their true feelings.
Teenagers look to mask many of the more difficult emotional situations that they face in their lives, and parental divorce is no exception. Because of all of the changes occurring in their life, they may be asked to take on new roles and new identities, as a result.
If your teen has younger siblings, they may look to protect them and assume some of their emotional weight, taking on the role as a surrogate-emotional caregiver. They may look to keep track of the emotional landscape of the situation and keep tabs on how the end of the parental relationship is affecting each sibling.
While taking care of the emotional well-being of their siblings, they may be ignoring their own emotions during this challenging time. They may be masking how they feel, how their adjusting, and what they are going through after a parental divorce by caring for their siblings.
Self-love and co-parenting
Teenagers may need to be encouraged to love themselves during a time when they’re facing the realization that their parents could not love each other. They need to be told that it is natural to have an honest conversation about the emotional complexity of the situation and self-worth and understand that they should not ignore the human quality of feelings, that we all share, according to Psychology Today.
Co-parents need to communicate with their teenagers on a daily basis and gain a sense of how they are feeling. These types of gestures send a message to the teenagers that it is okay to discuss how they are coping with the situation and what they think about everything. Even if it won’t actually incite actual change in the divorce itself, they need to know that they have places to open up.
Parents should not be fooled by the game face that their teens put on every day. Parents may think that their teenager may behave maturely and may not be in need of processing these feelings, but that may not necessarily be the case, due to the development that still is underway with their emotions and maturity.
No matter how common divorce has become in today’s society, being a child of divorce inevitably changes a teen’s self-image and inevitably alters the way they see their future and themselves in it.
Even as they are putting on a mask of a brave face, they still may be struggling with who they are in all of this. With how quickly teenagers change personas without the influence of divorce, there may be issues that they face in their behavior or how they communicate with their parents, teachers, and peers. They may become angry and lash out, trying to carve a situation out for themselves that they can control, due to the fact that they have previously been subjected to a situation out of their control.
Teenagers may behave poorly and cause financial implications. They may change the way they dress or begin to pick up different hobbies that may cost money. Given the financial pitfalls of the divorce experience, the custodial family already may require relocation, and thus, a new school, which can add an extra layer of difficulty to an already emotionally complex situation.
They also may try to hide their emotional state in their interactions with their friends. They may gain new friend groups or become more involved in pre-existing ones. They may join a sport that they previously had no experience in or may dive into their studies more, in order to avoid the emotions that they may be feeling.
In order to remove the mask, some teenagers may require some form of therapy. Professional help is nothing that they should be ashamed of, but as a parent, it is important to be prepared for resistance. They may rebel from the form of treatment, thinking that it is only for ‘crazy people.’
As co-parents, it is your responsibility to make your teen understand that therapeutic treatment is in their best interest and will only benefit them in the end. This will require a united front, which may be difficult after a divorce, but putting your children’s health and well-being needs to be the top priority at all times, especially in this scenario.
Masks may be a convenient way for a teenager to hide their faces during the Halloween season, but they are terrible ways of coping with the emotions of a parental divorce. In addressing how your teenage son or daughter handles the changes going on in their life, you are taking responsibility for your child’s emotional health and future development.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.