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How Divorced Parents Can Help Teens at the Holidays

By: Mary Lutz Category: divorce, Parenting A Teen

The holidays are supposed to be times when families come together and celebrate by eating family meals, participating in family traditions and just enjoying each other’s company. However, for families that have been through a recent divorce, the holidays can bring on a lot of stress and anxiety. This is especially true for the teenagers (and other children) caught in the middle of the divorce. Therefore, divorced parents need to do as much as possible to help make the holidays as pleasant for their teens as possible.

Plan It Out: One of the best ways to help your teens feel as if they are in a stable environment at the holidays is to plan out the details in advance. It’s very hard for teens, and younger children, to go from a stable family environment to a split family where they’re spending their time going from house to house. Therefore, it’s best for divorced parents to take the time to plan out how the holidays will work out. Then, discuss the plans with your kids in advance…let them know what’s going on.

Keep Family Traditions: If possible, work with your estranged spouse to keep certain family traditions. After all, it’s not your teen’s fault that the marriage didn’t work out. Your teen will feel torn between the two of you. So, if your family always did something special at the holidays such as picking out a Christmas tree or going to see a movie together, then try to continue to do those things. It may not be possible, depending on your relationship with your ex, but if it is – then do it for your kids.

Create New Traditions: It’s important that you help your teen move on after the divorce, especially during the holidays. They need to understand that things aren’t going to be the same, but that doesn’t mean the holidays can’t be enjoyable when you all are together. One of the best ways to do this is to start new holiday traditions. Maybe it’s time to start making the Thanksgiving Day meal with your teenage daughter or start hanging Christmas lights with your teenage son. Whatever the new tradition is, make sure you make a big deal about it and make it special.

Be Respectful: The holidays are supposed to be times of joy and love. Although those are the last two things you may be feeling at the holidays towards your ex, he or she will always be a part of your life because of your kids. So, make sure you don’t down your ex in front of your teen during this time (actually at any time) because your ex is still their dad or mom. When you are in contact with your ex, try to be as mature and respectful as possible. The goal is to show your teen that even though his or her parents are divorced, they are still adults and can be civil. This will also help your teen realize that he or she is welcome to talk about the other parent in front of you without worrying whether or not you’ll be mad.

Parental Alienation Syndrome: What it is and How it Affects your Teen

By: Mary Lutz Category: divorce, Parenting A Teen, Teen Emotional Health

When parents separate, it is important for both the mother and the father to maintain a relationship with the children. Yet in many cases, children side with one parent or the other. Sometimes this is the child’s own choice, but all too often it occurs due to the influence of the favored parent.

This phenomenon is nothing new, but only recently did it receive a name. In the early 1980s, child psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner coined the term “Parental alienation syndrome.” He defined it as a disorder in which a child belittles and insults one parent without good reason, due in part to influence from the other parent.

Parental alienation syndrome is not officially recognized by the medical or legal fields as a mental health issue. But there’s no denying that estrangement from one parent takes place in many separations and divorces. This can occur for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the following:

* One parent wants the other parent out of his or her life completely. Turning the children against the former partner is a way to achieve that.

* The custodial parent wants money or property from the non-custodial parent and uses the children as bargaining tools.

* One parent is overly possessive or jealous, and wants the children all to him/herself.

* One parent believes that the other parent is unworthy of the children.

* One parent feels unable to compete with the other parent for the children’s affections, and retaliates by trying to keep the kids from seeing him or her.

* The offending parent is hostile toward the other parent and keeps the children away to hurt him or her.

Whatever the reason, the offending parent effectively turns the child or children against the other parent. He or she may withhold or limit visitation or reduce or eliminate contact between parent and child. He or she might make disparaging remarks about the other parent to or in the presence of the children, or even make false allegations of abuse. Whether it is directly stated or not, the offending parent might make the child feel that he must choose one or the other.

When subjected to this behavior, children often side with the alienating parent. They do this to gain approval from that parent, or because they believe the terrible picture that has been painted of the other parent. Yet they often assert that the decision to reject the other parent is their own, because they don’t want the offending parent to feel or appear guilty.

Parental alienation syndrome can be mild or severe, but in any event, it can have devastating effects on the child involved. He becomes trapped in the middle of a conflict between two of the most important people in his life. The relationship with both parents usually becomes strained, and he may lose contact with one of them. Unless abuse of some sort is a factor, it is generally in the child’s best interest to encourage a good relationship with both mother and father.

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How to Help Teens Handle Divorce of their Parents

By: Mary Lutz Category: divorce, Parenting A Teen, Teen Emotional Health

Divorce is a difficult thing for a couple to go through. When there are children involved, it is much more difficult. Young children may have a hard time understanding what’s going on. Teenagers are more aware of the logistics of the situation, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not hard on them, too.

Teenagers from broken homes are more likely to have problems at school. They may also act out at home, or even find themselves in trouble with the police. They are literally caught in the middle of the divorce, and this can put them into a state of emotional turmoil.

The better the divorce is handled, the less of a negative impact it will have on teenagers and any other children involved. As hard as it may be, it is extremely important to keep things civil between you and your spouse. It’s also crucial to keep your children in the loop.

How to Break the News

Telling your children that you’re getting a divorce is not an easy thing to do, but it must be done. With teenagers, it’s especially important to let them know soon after you’ve come to a decision. But if you have younger children as well, they should be informed at the same time to prevent feelings of resentment.

When it’s time to break the news, gather everyone in a comfortable setting such as a family room. If possible, both parents should be present. Once you’ve put things out in the open, each child should have the opportunity to ask questions in the presence of the family and in private.

Custody and Visitation

Be sure to tell your teenager about custody arrangements as soon as they are settled. This is one of the most important aspects of the lives of children with divorced parents, so it’s vital to keep them informed. Doing so will help maintain your child’s trust.

It’s also critical to keep communication open with both parents as much as possible. As long as there is no abuse of any kind, children should be allowed to stay in touch with the non-custodial parent. Since teenagers today have different methods of communication than their parents did when growing up, it’s important to keep in touch with them on their terms to some extent. In addition to phone calls and visits, emails and text messaging will help kids stay in contact with parents at all times.

Visits with the non-custodial parent should be fun and exciting. Since you won’t be spending as much time with your teenager as your former spouse, it’s important to make sure you pack as much value into your visits as possible. This doesn’t mean you should try to outdo the other parent, just that you need to plan activities that you and your child can enjoy together. Some ideas include going to the movies, playing ball at the park or visiting local attractions.

Teens are in one of the most turbulent stages of their lives, and dealing with the divorce of their parents makes these years even more difficult. By keeping the lines of communication open and striving to maintain good relationships with both parents, you can make things significantly less stressful.

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Ten Tips for Talking to Your Children about Divorce

By: Mary Lutz Category: divorce, Family, Parenting A Teen, Teen Emotional Health

The decision to get a divorce is usually an agonizing one. But the thought of telling our children about it can be absolutely terrifying. It’s disheartening to have to be the bearer of such devastating news, and it’s impossible to predict how they will react.

Talking to children about divorce is never easy. But there are some things you can do to make it less stressful for everyone involved. Here are some tips.

1. Talk to your children as soon as possible after you’ve come to a decision. Postponing the talk will just give you more time to dread it, and you may lose the trust of your kids. Make sure that you intend to go through with it, try to make some preliminary living arrangements, and break the news as soon as possible afterward.

2. If possible, both spouses should be present when telling children about divorce. Otherwise, they might feel as though the decision was one-sided or that the absent parent doesn’t care about them. This will also help them understand that you will still be parenting as a team.

3. Choose a time that will not interfere with your children’s normal activities, and a place that is familiar and comfortable. This shows respect for the things that are important to them and ensures that they will feel comfortable asking questions.

4. Tell all of your children at the same time. If you don’t, there will almost certainly be feelings of resentment. Even if they are not close in age, they deserve to hear about it at the same time. You can talk to them separately in more age-appropriate terms later.

5. Younger children are unlikely to understand what divorce means. Explain it in the simplest terms possible. Explain that you and your spouse will no longer be living together, that they will see both of you, and that both parents love them and always will.

6. Avoid arguing with the other parent or laying blame. This is a time to inform your kids about what’s going on, not to decide who’s right and who’s wrong.

7. Do your best to avoid expressing anger or bitterness, but feel free to express sadness. Doing so lets children know that it’s okay for them to be sad.

8. Make it a point to tell your children that it’s not their fault. Young children are especially prone to thinking that they are somehow to blame for divorce, even if they don’t vocalize it. It’s very important to reassure them that it has nothing to do with them.

9. Fill them in on everything that has been decided so far. They need to know where they will be staying, if a parent is moving out, and that their basic needs will be met. Do your best to address these concerns as fully as possible.

10. Encourage your children to ask questions, and answer them truthfully. You don’t have to tell them all of the details about why you are separating, but it is critically important to maintain their trust.

Honest Parenting is truly helpful information that is easy to understand and absolutely works to help you build (or RE-build) a positive, pleasant, and productive relationship with your child or teen.

Separate Houses, Same Rules

By: Mary Lutz Category: divorce, Family, Parenting A Teen, Teen Emotional Health

As a mother of 4 kids who have been through the divorce of their parents, I know how difficult it can on the children when they have to go back and forth from one parent’s house to the other. I also know how difficult it is when the divorced parents aren’t on the same page when it comes to rules and other issues such as beliefs and lifestyles.

Divorce can be traumatic, not only for the separating partners, but also for their children. Kids who are caught in the middle experience a deluge of emotions, including sadness, anger and confusion. How the parents handle the divorce, however, can make it more or less difficult for them.

A frequent point of contention between divorcing parents is the set of rules that their children are expected to follow. Usually, while married, parents come up with a set of rules to which they can both agree. But in the event of separation, each parent may prefer to change the rules a bit for when the children are with them.

Overall, this is a bad idea. While it is ultimately up to the parent to enforce rules, having two different sets of rules is generally bad for the children. Here are a few reasons why this is so:

* Having to adjust to a different set of rules each time a child visits the other parent is difficult. They might get confused about which rules apply where, and that could get them in trouble.

* Children may resent the parent who enforces more restrictive rules. These rules might be in the child’s best interest, but he still feels that he’s being treated unfairly because they do not apply when he is with the other parent. This often leads to conflict between parent and child.

* A difference in rules can cause added conflict between the parents. Not only does this produce more stress in the adults, it also hurts the children. Even though the parents are separated, seeing them fight is not good for the children.

* Children need a sense of stability. This stability is lessened when their parents divorce. But being subject to the same rules at both households gives them some semblance of security.

Agreeing on the Rules

When you come to the decision to get a divorce, the first thing that’s usually discussed is who will get the children and how visitation will work. It’s also important to discuss the continuation of rules early on. Parents often assume that the other parent will keep the same rules, but that doesn’t always happen. This is especially true in households where the rules are flexible or not well defined.

For best results, rules should remain the same as when the parents were together. But children who are experiencing a state of transition may need to have their rules revised. For example, a teen who is ready to start dating will need rules that weren’t necessary before. In such circumstances, the parents need to discuss the prospective new rules ahead of time and do their best to come to an agreement on them.

Having the same rules at both homes makes things easier for parents and children. It makes for less conflict and greater uniformity. While a divorce is not by nature a pleasant experience, maintaining a consistent set of rules can make it less unpleasant.

Additional Resources

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Real Life Guidance to Understanding Your Teen shows you how to accept what you can and cannot control in your teen’s life, how to cope with mood swings, keeping the lines of communication open.