Your divorce is final, and you breathe a sigh of relief, ready to move forward. But your teens live with you most of the time, and the turmoil of the separation has contributed to their ongoing angst. Read on for seven tips to keep your sanity in the midst of their drama.
Tip #1 – Recognize that Your Children Are Grieving
Your children have lost the dream of a stable and happy home with two parents living together who love each other and who love them. They will understandably go through challenges as they grieve, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Talk with them through this process, and be empathetic as they cope.
Tip #2 – Spend Time with Each Child Alone
As stretched as you are, strive to give your children some of your undivided attention. Find out how you can best communicate your love to them – through gifts, time spent together, acts of service, affectionate touch or encouraging words. Each child will process the divorce differently, so support your kids in the ways that resonate with them most.
Tip #3 – Be the Grownup
Even when your son or daughter lashes out, you need to act like an adult and respond calmly to his or her tirade. By helping your child work through his or her emotions, you can model appropriate ways to handle feelings.
Recognize that your teens are still developing, emotionally. The Wall Street Journal reports: “”Cognitive empathy,” or the mental ability to take others’ perspective, begins rising steadily in girls at age 13, according to a six-year study published recently in Developmental Psychology. But boys don’t begin until age 15 to show gains in perspective-taking, which helps in problem-solving and avoiding conflict. Adolescent males actually show a temporary decline, between ages 13 and 16, in a related skill—affective empathy, or the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings.”
Tip #4 – Don’t Bad Mouth Your Ex in Front of the Kids
While he or she might have done something horribly wrong – had an affair, abandoned the family or lied about significant matters – your ex is still a parent to your child. Your children have your ex’s DNA, and they will carry that throughout the rest of their lives. Do not make a bad situation worse by broadcasting negativity and gloom and doom.
Tip #5 – Develop a Schedule and Stick with It
A schedule will help you keep your sanity and allow your teen to develop a new routine to create structure during this time of transition.
Tip #6 – Stay Flexible
Life happens. Changes will force you to recalibrate your relationships and even the fundamental ways you approach parenting. Don’t panic. All parents with teens experience “phase changes” in their relationships as the kids grow up. Strive to handle them with grace and good humor.
Tip #7 – Model Acceptable Behavior
Agree that you will maintain polite behavior, respectful conversation, trust and consistency. These basic ground rules will help your son or daughter manage the changes. Emphasize a positive (but not polyanna-ish) attitude and hopeful outlook for the future.