How to Tell Your Teenager That You Are Separating Without Escalating Their Pain
When you and your partner have decided to separate, it is clearly a time of heightened emotions and complex feelings for everyone involved.
This is especially true of any children from the partnership or marriage, who will need to be helped through the process both emotionally and physically.
If find yourself browsing for help on parental separation and helping your teenager cope through it, look no further.
Teenage children especially are at a time of life where they are experiencing a huge amount of change already and are having to face increasingly adult emotions and issues.
Teenagers typically run through a wide range of emotions when dealing with difficult issues.
It can be extremely common for their mood to swing wildly from one day to the next, or even many times in the space of just 24 hours.
Here are some tips for talking to children about separation
Talk, listen and acknowledge
Talking is often the best form of therapy and bottling up feelings can lead to escalating concerns and destructive behaviours later on.
Talking to your teen about separation and divorce entails a lot of challenges.
You may not want to talk about what you perceive as a very painful stage in your life, but your children will need to know what’s happening, where they fit in and, most importantly, that you both still love them and the separation is not their fault.
You may think that older children will have grasped this fact already, but their need for reassurance will be very strong at this time of flux.
Listen to them and try not to judge what they say, or leap to your own defence too quickly.
Keep it simple, let them ask questions and don’t make promises you may not be able to keep. Acknowledge that they will have feelings that might be hard to deal with, which may be directed straight at you, like anger, fear or sadness.
Don’t blame your partner for the split or make your child feel guilty for still loving them.
As teenagers head towards adulthood, they will need to maintain their relationships with both separating parties and it will be far healthier if those relationships can remain positive.
It takes a village
Just as everyone needs support from other people when raising their children from time to time, so too can other people greatly ease the process of separation and divorce and dealing with your teenager.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins can provide some much-needed stability and the sense that the family will still go on, albeit with slightly different living arrangements for two or more of its members.
Ask them to take your teen out for the day to help them get away from tensions at home and to give them the space to process their feelings while doing something fun.
Encourage your child to talk to their friends
Many will have gone through, or be going through the same situation in their own families and could offer some valuable insights, support and the chance to chill out and unwind together.
Talk to school or college too, as they will appreciate knowing the reasons behind any changes in behaviour, mood or motivation.
They may also be able to provide access to a counsellor or professional support for dealing with the complex emotions involved. Or, on a practical level, give affected students extra time for assignments, homework etc.
Teenagers tend to have complex social lives, and it is vital to remember that although your life may be radically changing, much of theirs will remain the same, when it comes to school, friendships, career aspirations, hobbies and so forth.
So, make sure that you factor this into any plans around access, holidays and living arrangements.
Get hold of your teen’s school or college timetable, as well as any key dates for their hobbies, such as football matches, dance exams or end of term socials.
Ask your teen about any birthday parties, volunteering commitments etc. so that you can work out where they need to be and which parent should be in charge of getting them there.
Don’t let personal feelings get in the way of this, or try to score points by making your child feel that the other parent is stopping them doing the things they enjoy.
This will only harbour resentment and make ongoing cooperation and trust much harder to achieve.
If you treat your teenager like an adult and acknowledge their feelings and needs, this will be the best way you can help them handle this difficult time.
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