What can you do to support your teenager during this family transition?
Managing your separation and parenting your teenager
Managing your separation and being a parent to your teenager can be a difficult process. This is a stressful time for the family and the way you handle this with your teenager will affect how they cope in the future.
Here are some things that teenagers find helpful and other things that they find hurtful
1. Present a united front. If possible, try to talk to your children together about your separation. You will be less tempted to blame your partner.
2. Allow your children to say how they feel about the separation.Despite the fact that many teenagers seem to understand the reasons you have decided to separate, they will still have a need to express their anger about the disruption to their lives.
3. Tell them what is happening. Teenagers need to know what your plans are, for example, “We are separating, your father is moving to an apartment but you will be able to see him at weekends and on two evenings a week”. Speak to them honestly and openly as teenagers will appreciate you telling them in an adult way why the separation has happened and what is happening.
4. Remember your teenager has their own life to live when arranging to see them. Being involved in what they are doing, for example, watching a football match with them, can often mean more to them than hours spent together with you on your own.
5. Talk to your teenagers about who they want to know about the separation. For example, not all teenagers want their school teachers to be told about the separation.
6. Keep your promises. Teenagers will quickly become disillusioned as to how much you really care about them if you don’t visit or call when you said you would. If you have to change a date with them, tell them as soon as possible and make another date which you can keep.
7. Ensure your teenagers can access their own supports outside the family. Don’t just leave it up to their peer group. If your teenager is finding it difficult to cope with the separation there are support services available for young people such as Teen Crisis Counselling .
1. Asking them to take sides. Teenagers need to work out for themselves how they feel about the behaviour of their parents and not be forced to blame one parent or the other.
2. Asking them which parent they want to live with. Basically, any teenager would prefer not to move house, schools, etc but they feel like they’re in a no-win situation when asked to choose which parent they love most – which is how they interpret the question “Which of us do you want to live with?”.
3. Relying emotionally on your teenagers and using them to discuss all your fears and concerns as you may have done with your ex-partner. This is not an appropriate role for your teenager. If you need to talk about your problems find a friend, family member or counsellor.
4. Using your teenager to find out what your ex is up to or to continue the conflict between you and your ex, e.g. when they return from a visit don’t quiz them about who was there, where they went etc.
5. Criticising your ex in front of your children, however frustrated and angry you may feel. Children see themselves as being made up of both parents so when they hear something bad about one, they take it as a personal insult which can really deplete their confidence. Talk about the nice things that come from their relationship with the other parent. It is important to support your child’s relationship with the other parent as this will really help them in the long run.
6. Assuming your teenagers are to blame if they are acting out. It could be that you are not able to parent as you normally would and that it is you who needs help to deal with your feelings, not them.
(Adapted from Sharry, J., Murphy, M., Keating, A., & Parents Plus Charity. (2012). Parents Booklet: A Positive Guide to Helping Families Manage Separation and Divorce. Dublin: Parents Plus.)
How separation affects you and your teenager differently
It is important for you to be aware that your needs can be very different to the needs of your teenagers, particularly when you first separate. The problem is that you, as a parent, often assume that your needs are the same as your teenagers, while they assume that you need the same things that they need.
Finding help for your teenager
If you feel your teenager needs some extra support in coping with the changes that have arisen due to the separation then there are a number of options available to you.
While it is important to look after your teenager’s well being during this stressful time, it is also equally important to make sure you are taking proper care of yourself and your own needs during and after the separation.
Separation and divorce for many couples is possibly one of life’s most stressful events.
This becomes even more complex when children are involved. I recognise that one of the hardest aspects of a relationship breakup is making a successful transition from parenting as a couple to co-parenting after separation.
This is especially so where the relationship breakup has been difficult and acrimonious, as many are. In these circumstances it can be a big challenge to leave aside the anger, hurt and sense of betrayal to concentrate on what is best for your children as their parents.
I offer a range of individual, couple and group services that help people make a successful transition. Depending on your needs, history and stage of separation, I can help you to work out a constructive plan and take steps to moving on to a healthy and positive parenting arrangement.
Helping your teenager through this difficult time is very important but it can take a lot out of you especially if you are facing issues of your own due to the separation.
While supporting your teenager you must also look at what you need to remain happy and healthy. Being at your best allows you to offer greater patience and a more considered approach as to how you can help.
How to look after Yourself
Parenting Teens is hard work at the best of times!
If you take time to look after yourself you’ll be better able to support your children whatever their ages.
I run 'Parenting when separated Programmes' which will help you to co parent your child/teen in the best way possible
If your relationship is about to end or has ended,I am here to help. I understand how difficult relationship endings are and how much more complicated it can be when children are involved. I are here to make sure that you get the support and assistance you need during this time.