Addressing the Needs of Teens After DivorceEstablishing a parenting plan for your teenage children requires you to take into account both their developmental stage and the special risks unique to teens. The plan may require you to increase parental supervision rather than reduce it.

What Happens During the Teen Years

As your children move through their teen years, you will find them trying to move from a family centered point of view to a more independent perspective focused on relations with friends and peers. Emotionally, they may swing between feelings of vulnerability and invincibility. Reaching for independence, they may question and challenge the values that have governed their lives up to this point.

How Divorce Affects Teens

Your divorce may speed up this process of separation and questioning.  Just when teens may need a firm anchor the most, everything in their life is changing. Where they live, how they relate to parents and family, and even how they perceive themselves can all be affected by the divorce. They may mourn the loss of the family unit they have known all of their lives and have concerns about how the divorce will affect their future. The stresses and emotional upheavals that you are going through may make you less available for them just when they need you most.

Actions You Can Take to Help Your Teen

While many teens weather the storm with few problems, others engage in risky behaviors that can have long-term repercussions. These behaviors can include use of drugs, drinking, participating in dangerous activities, and engaging in promiscuous sexual behaviors. Be encouraged to take the following actions to help your teen handle your divorce:

  • Increase your level of supervision rather than reduce it. Both parents need to agree on clear boundaries and limits and the consequences for breaking the rules.
  • Work together to parent your teen. Don’t count on the other parent handling problems. Both of you need to enforce the boundaries and limits you have agreed on. You both also need to remain available to talk with your teen. As much as possible, your approach to parenting and your messages to your teen need to be consistent.
  • Act as a role model for your teen. Handle the divorce process and the conflicts that come with it in a manner you would want your teen to mimic.

When developing parenting plans, remember that your teenagers are going through the crisis of the divorce during their own time of transition toward adulthood.

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg