How Divorce Affects Children & Teens: Parents Need Realistic Expectations!

How Divorce Affects Children & Teens: Parents Need Realistic Expectations!

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

Parenting is always complex. Parenting following a divorce can add many other layers of distraction and confusion to the mix. That makes it even more important for parents to be aware of how their children are responding to the divorce.

Misunderstanding Your Child’s Intentions

One common error parents make is misunderstanding the stage of development their children are at which can lead to unrealistic expectations. Too often parents will assume that their child has a realistic handle on their emotions. They also believe the child has a deeper understanding of human nature than is really possible at their age. So when their child acts out, expresses anger or otherwise misbehaves, many parents misconstrue their intentions.

Parents don’t fully grasp the fear and insecurity that divorce brings up in children. They mistakenly see these young beings as little adults who bring adult reasoning and comprehension to life experiences.

With that mindset, it’s easy to get disappointed when your child’s behavior doesn’t live up to your expectations. Or when they lash out at you for turning their lives upside down.

When divorce enters the family dynamic we often forget that our children are processing their feelings with limited skills and emotional awareness. We all know that divorce can become an enormous challenge for adults. Imagine the ramifications on youngsters – as well as for teens!

Give Your Kids a Break

How unfair (and unrealistic) is it to expect your children to fully understand what Mom and Dad are going through — and then respond with compassion?

Emotional maturity doesn’t fully develop until well into our twenties. Yet divorced parents frequently put the burden on their children to be empathic, understanding and disciplined in their behavior when parents themselves struggle with accessing that level of maturity.

Misunderstanding Our Teens

Parents are often especially misguided in their expectation about teens. By nature, teenagers are very self-absorbed. They don’t yet have the full capacity to put others’ needs ahead of their own. In addition, most teens are not very future focused … nor are they motivated by lectures about consequences.

Part of the parenting process is to role model positive behavior and to demonstrate the advantages of setting goals, planning ahead for the future, etc. Unrealistic parental expectations can lead to needless conflict with our teens. Losing the support from their parents can easily result in a sense of confusion, insecurity, guilt or shame within their fragile psyches.

Why get angry at your teen for not displaying adult maturity at a time when your own maturity may certainly be at question?

By understanding your children’s stages of emotional development as they grow, you are less likely to make the common mistakes parents make when coping with divorce:

  • Confiding adult information your kids can’t psychologically handle
  • Expecting kids to play the role of your mediator, therapist, or parent
  • Asking your child to take sides and reject their other parent
  • Turning your kids into your personal messenger or spy

As a parent, make sure you have reasonable expectations for your children. Don’t be disappointed when your child behaves as the child they still are!

Co-Parenting Guidebook Supports Parents

For information about how divorce affects children at different ages, how to skillfully communicate with your former spouse after divorce, successful co-parenting strategies and more – check out my digital guidebook: Parenting Beyond Divorce – Making Life Better For Your & Your Children. Learn more at: www.childcentereddivorce.com/parenting-divorce/

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is also author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, free articles, Coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.

© Rosalind Sedacca  All rights reserved.

 

Divorce Advice From Family & Friends – Don’t Take It!

Divorce Advice From Family & Friends – Don’t Take It!

 
 
 

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

divorce separation path

The Divorce/Separation Path

Divorce by its very nature brings up lots of judgments. Most people have strong opinions about divorce, strongly influenced by their own experiences or the programming of their upbringing.

You’re very unlikely to change anyone’s mind about the best way to handle divorce when you’re a parent. So don’t try.

Your family and friends mean well. They want to support and help you through any crisis. But be aware that along with their support they bring their personal prejudices. These are weighed down by the baggage of judgments that inevitably color their advice. If you allow yourself to be influenced by the well-meant suggestions of these individuals, you may find yourself falling into a deep quagmire of confusion or even depression.

No one walks in your shoes or has experienced your history. At the same time, most everyone has an agenda, and opinion on what you should or shouldn’t do based on how they see the world.

  • Can your friends and family members, much as they do love you, be sincerely impartial at this time?
  • Can they offer you the best perspective on how to move ahead with your life?
  • Can they provide sound advice about your best options without their message being affected by their own life dramas and frustrations?

Be gracious about the advice you get – then do what is right for you!

In most cases, they cannot. When you’re besieged with advice, be gracious about accepting it. Listen and weigh its value. Then decide for yourself about what path you need to take next. Think about your innocent children and what decisions you need to make to best support them now, in the months to come, and in the years to follow.

  • How will they remember this time?
  • Will they understand your behaviors and decisions when they grow to maturity?
  • Will they be unnecessarily scarred by what you say, do or don’t do at this time?

A professional therapist, divorce coach or member of the clergy with experience in these matters can be a sounding board for you while offering a more impartial perspective on your present situation. It makes sense to talk to such a professional for advice, feedback and as a gauge to see if the direction you are moving in is the wisest for everyone in your family.

Talk to mediators or Collaborative attorneys before traditional divorce lawyers steering you into litigation. Discuss their approach to protecting your children not only legally, but also psychologically and emotionally as you move ahead. If your legal team is not family focused and co-parenting oriented it’s unlikely the children’s real needs will be addressed and they may suffer the consequences long-term.

Trained professionals know how to remain dispassionate while providing encouragement and support. They know how to listen and ask questions that clarify your challenges and the options available to you. Once you come to a decision and feel it is the best and most congruent direction for you and your children, then you can take action with confidence.

Don’t ask for agreement from your friends and family. 

Ask instead for their support.

This is a time for focus and clarity. Trust yourself and trust those who are trained to help during the stresses related to divorce or separation. You are making life-transforming decisions that will affect your family, and especially your children, for years and even decades to come. Lean in the direction of creating a “child-centered” divorce, putting your children’s emotional needs first and foremost, and you are much more likely to look back at this time with a sense of well-being.

You did the best you could for those whose lives are in your hands.

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of the internationally acclaimed, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — With Love! For expert advice on divorce and parenting issues, personal Coaching services, valuable resources and her free ebook – Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Doing It Right! visit Rosalind’s website at: http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.

© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.