Teenagers & Divorce – Guidance During This Difficult Time

Teenagers distressed as parents argue

This article is a continuation of our series of articles discussing facing a divorce. To read our related article, please visit the link to learn more about children & divorce.


The process of going through a divorce is extremely difficult for any family and we have already covered in our previous article – advice on facing a divorce when children are involved. As discussed in this article – although divorce is highly difficult for all involved – it can be especially difficult for the children. Although the process can be extremely difficult for children – teenagers can be extremely affected by a divorce. Although the common misconception exists that teenagers and young adults are older and are therefore able to cope – this is simply not the case as divorce affects all children in many different ways.


This article discusses the potential impact that divorce can have on teenagers and young adults as well as ways in which they can be supporting and guided during this understandably difficult time. If you are having difficulties with teenagers or young adults when facing a divorce then it’s highly recommended to speak to a relevant professional such as a Councillor or relevant 3rd party. As we will touch upon – they can offer impartial advice and support to all family members.


Myths Surrounding Teenagers & Divorce


As we have already mentioned – there are some myths that surround divorce especially when discussing the impact on children and teenagers. A common justification for couples staying together when unhappy is to wait until children are at an older age before the divorce or separation takes place. This may be carried out because the couple feel that children will be more negatively impacted than teenagers or adults but children of all ages and even adults can be extremely negatively impacted by a divorce. 


Some psychologists and experts argue that divorce can actually be more detrimental in some areas for teenagers and young adults than with children. One of the main issues that can arise is that it’s often more clear to see the effects that are being made on children rather than with teenagers and adults. Children may display obvious signs of stress whereas teenagers and young adults may hide their emotions and not discuss or be honest with parents during this understandably difficult time.


How to Discuss a Divorce With a Teenager or Young Adult


Discussing divorce with a teenager or young adult will differ from approaching the discussion with a child. As mentioned – teenagers are likely to keep thoughts hidden inside and as they are at the formative years of life before adulthood – the impact of the divorce can have long lasting effects on their ability to form adult relationships. Some approaches and aspects that you will need to consider are as follows:


  • Informing other adults that are involved with children is highly important. This can make the situation less traumatic and other adults can also help during the process. 
  • Ensure that if teenagers are acting strangely or erratically then this behaviour is addressed and discussed. Ensure that you also observe behaviour such as teenagers acting withdrawn or acting erratically as this could be an indication of alcohol and drug abuse. Teenagers may seek to find substances or other activities that allow them to take their mind away from reality which can complicate things even further. 
  • Ensure that teenagers know that they are the top priority. Similarly to when supporting children – they may feel as if they are to blame for the divorce taking place. It can be hard to confront teenagers and discuss their feelings so you may want to consider taking them on an activity such as a walk or an activity in which you can talk and discuss their feelings in a more relaxed environment. 
  • New partners or relationships can also be a huge source of contention – especially with teenagers. If at all possible – all efforts should be made to not assign blame and children should not be made to feel as if they need to take sides. Anger and other emotions can be aggravated should other partners be introduced in close proximity to the divorce. Children may find that they are being forced to accept a new parent which can be extremely difficult for teenagers to grasp and deal with – especially during this highly difficult time.


Consider – Counselling or Mediation


Counselling or mediation can be used to utilise a neutral third party who can listen to both parents and their children during the divorce process. Although counselling/mediation will not be used to try and resolve a divorce – these methods would be used to reach agreements post-divorce. 


Other adults that are involved in family life or in the teenager(s) life are also highly important and can act as another source of comfort during the divorce process. Grandparents, godparents, neighbours or other relatives can offer valuable support and information away from the advice of either parent. This can also offer an impartial opinion as these friends or family of the teenager(s) can offer other support that doesn’t make it feel as if they are taking sides for or against a parent. 


Ending the Blame Game is Especially Important


Teenager while parents argue - Divorce


In certain cases – one party may be to blame for the breakdown of a marriage and a divorce. As we have mentioned with proposed changes in the law to end the ‘blame game’ – this may reduce the conflict for teenagers in certain cases. This is because of the fact that a divorce can be agreed and finalised with ‘no-fault’ assigned to either party which can make a divorce easier to explain to children and teenagers. Where they may seek to find blame – especially to explain why their parents are going through a divorce – this in some cases will make it easier for parents to explain why they are going through a divorce with their children.


It is important when facing a separation to prepare for the potentially difficult situations that lay ahead. Because every teenager may react differently to a divorce – taking a clear and guided approach can be vital in ensuring a smoother divorce process – especially when considering the impact that it may have on your family. As arrangements for children of any age can be a key point of a dispute for a divorce – reaching decisions where possible can help with the divorce process as well as help to manage how to approach a divorce with your family and how to make decisions after the divorce process has taken place.


If you require additional support during this understandably difficult time then it’s highly recommended to contact a family law solicitor as well as a counsellor. They can advise you on the best course of action and how to support your family during the divorce process.

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