The Impact of Separation on Your Teenage Children
Being a teenager is hard enough without having to deal with your parents’ separation, but that is not enough reason not to go ahead with the ending of a bad marriage.
You must be prepared to deal with how your teenage children feel about the separation as how you manage this difficult situation will impact on them for the rest of their lives, and the relationships they will have with their own children in the future.
It Can Be PositiveA number of studies have shown that teenage children are far more likely to flourish as adults if their parents separate rather than having direct experience of them staying in a bad marriage. Remember that teenagers are not adults yet – they may think they are, but they do not have the emotional intelligence to separate your relationship from theirs. They also naturally gravitate to blaming themselves for difficult situations and will internalise how their behaviour could have helped you to be happier or stay together.
Don’t forget that being a teenager brings with it all sorts of issues anyway – self-image problems, relationship issues, problems with teachers, school work and exams, friendship difficulties…all on top of the large number of raging hormones that they can’t control and make everything more difficult.
Be Clear that your Child is Not to BlameThis all points to the fact that you need to allow plenty of time to talk to your teenage child about how they are feeling about your separation. You must make it clear over and over again that your separation is absolutely nothing to do with them or their behaviour, however difficult it is, and that even though you no longer feel the same way about their other parent, you both love them very much and that will never change.
You need to be prepared to have this conversation many times, with good grace, even though you will be going through your own emotional turmoil. You and your partner presumably chose to have a child together, so you must both deal with the fall out of your separation. This is especially true if either one of you has a new partner, particularly if there are children with the new partner, as your teenage child will feel even more strongly that it is something to do with them. Repeat that it is nothing to do with them far more times than you think necessary.
Constant CommunicationIt is unlikely that your teenage child will come out of your separation unscathed, even if you try to handle their emotions as sensitively as possible. As long as you know you have done everything possible, you must simply carry on being there for your child, especially if the partner who has left seems pre-occupied with their new life. Take time to do special things together – it doesn’t have to be expensive, even the coolest teenage children secretly like making cup cakes with their mum or dad.
The most important thing here is constant communication. Don’t shy away from difficult questions – answer as honestly as possible without embarrassing your child and use age-appropriate language. Never make it difficult for them to see their other parent, even if they have been really terrible to you. Certainly don’t use access to your child as a weapon with your partner. It’s not easy but it can be done.