Going through a divorce is hard on everyone involved. Even if things end amicably, it’s a major life change. It can even cause grief for you and those around you.
Divorce can be especially hard on teenagers. It’s difficult enough to experience so many personal changes as a teen, but watching your parents go through a divorce can make things feel much heavier. It’s important that you and your ex are on the same page as often as possible when it comes to co-parenting strategies.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to co-parent effectively. You can minimize conflict with your ex while keeping your teen’s mental health in mind. Let’s cover a few strategies that will make the next chapter in all of your lives easier and less stressful.
One of the best things you can do for your teen is to provide consistency in both homes. Chances are they’ve been used to a certain set of rules and routines most of their lives. While some things might have to change, you and your former partner should be on the same page about those expectations.
Not only will it make it easier to continue to parent your teen, but it will minimize conflict between you and your ex.
While it might not be easy, maintaining consistency requires effective communication. You don’t want to micromanage the way your former spouse is co-parenting, so communicating things ahead of time will help to reduce stress and give you both peace of mind. Some of the best communicative strategies for co-parenting include:
Not only will consistency be easier for you, but it can help your teen feel more stable and secure. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to act out due to stress. The changes in their life can take a toll on their mental health. Making sure they maintain a solid routine is a good start to reducing their stress, but you might also need to talk to your ex about seeking out professional help. This could be as simple as implementing proven exercises to improve your child’s mental health or facilitating a meeting with a therapist. These are great ways to help your impressionable teen learn emotional intelligence and healthy ways to cope.
Everyone wants to be heard and validated, especially when they’re going through a difficult situation. It’s important to make sure your teen knows they can come to you when they’re struggling with their emotions around the situation. While you shouldn’t force communication, you should let them know you’re there to listen, no matter what.
Encourage gentle communication and create opportunities to talk, whether it’s at the dinner table each night or during a morning walk. Knowing what your teenager is dealing with will make it easier to comfort and reassure them. The most important things to keep in mind as you speak and listen are:
It’s also necessary to give them their space. During your divorce, you probably want time to yourself to process what is happening. Your teen deserves the same.
For most teenagers, that means retreating to their bedroom and using it as a sort of safe haven to collect their thoughts and freely feel their emotions. Now might be a perfect time to help your teen redecorate their room.
It’s a great way to show them you respect their space and want them to feel as safe and comfortable as possible. Get them involved in each decision for the room upgrade, and they’ll feel more comfortable and secure than ever during those moments when they need to get away.
You might think that your teen hardly ever listens to what you say, but that’s not true. In truth, they’re likely observing you and listening to you more than you think. They still look to you to be an active role model in their life.
Now, in this new and uncertain situation, they’ll look to you even more.
That’s exactly why it’s so crucial to be a positive role model when it comes to your behavior and how you interact with your ex. Don’t put your teen in the middle of any lingering conflicts you might have with your former spouse. Don’t try to pin them against their other parent. Most importantly, don’t make them the messenger. Your divorce is between you and your ex, and your teen already has a lot to deal with because of the split.
By modeling healthy and stable behavior with your co-parent, your teen will benefit. They won’t feel like their life has become so uprooted, and they won’t feel the pressure of “choosing” one parent over another.
Divorce is, sadly, all too common nowadays, and many kids and teenagers suffer from the lingering mental health effects it can cause. You can help to prevent that with your teen by implementing some of these strategies and making sure your ex is willing to prioritize them, too.
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