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:

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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:

© Rosalind Sedacca  All rights reserved.


4 Ways to Help Kids of Divorce Transition Between Homes

4 Ways to Help Kids of Divorce Transition Between Homes

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

During divorce proceedings parenting plans and contact schedules are usually established to create a semblance of routine in this new chapter of family life. I am a strong believer in co-parenting whenever possible to serve the best interest of your children.

Sometimes parallel parenting is the norm, meaning you both parent the children but with minimum communication between parents. Keep in mind that your kids pick up on the emotional energy around their parents and life after divorce is smoother and easier for them when their parents behave with civility and maturity.

However you work out your shared parenting plan, it’s the reality of post-divorce daily life that puts co-parents to the test.

Here are 4 ways to ease the process for everyone involved.

1. Be patient with one another. Starting any new schedule in life is never easy. Chances are the between-home transitions will present a number of challenges for you as you adapt to the many responsibilities involved. At the same time, think about the challenges for your children who never signed on for this. Be especially empathic with them if they express frustration, anger and resentment at first. Listen to them; respect their right to voice their feelings. Also allow your children time to adjust to the “new” home after each transition. In time these changes will become just another “routine.” Remember, your ex is adjusting to these changes just as you are. Be tolerant of one another. You’re all in the same boat so to speak.

2.  Be prepared with all information in advance. Never argue or have disagreements over drop-off and pick-up details or parenting issues in front of your children. Have a calendar app or use one of the convenient online scheduling programs available so you and the kids can see at a glance when transitions will occur. Establish a system for creating and confirming schedule data — and use it. Know the answers before leaving home. Keep drop offs quick, simple and pleasant for the kids. Create a brief goodbye routine and send them on their way with a hug and a smile. If there are issues to discuss, talk to your ex when you’re both alone at another time.

3.  Be pleasant and positive. Some children feel guilty about staying at the other parent’s house. They fear you’ll feel lonely or abandoned. It’s important to give your children permission to enjoy themselves and their time with Dad or Mom. Tell them you have much to do and will appreciate some “alone” time. Remind them you will also miss them and look forward to their return. In advance, talk to them about the fun they will have and how much their other parent wants to see them, as well. Let them know both Mom and Dad love them and deserve time with them. Never say disrespectful things about your ex before the visit or ask them to spy on Mom or Dad on your behalf. Let your children enjoy just being kids!

4.  Be cooperative, flexible and understanding. Allow your children to feel free to contact their other parent — and let that parent contact them when necessary. Never create the feeling that their Mom or Dad is the enemy who can’t invade on YOUR time with the kids. Be respectful when you do check in with them – and allow the same courtesy to your ex. That is what co-parenting is all about. Sometimes plans change. Bend over backwards to accommodate your ex and more than likely they will do the same for you. This models behavior you want your children to learn anyway. Why not take the high road and be the parent you want your children to admire and emulate?

If you keep these points in mind, you will be on your way to creating and living the child-centered divorce you want for your children. You have the power to make one of the most challenging post-divorce realities – sharing time with your children – a smooth and pleasant experience. You will all benefit from the effort you make to do it right from the very beginning. So why choose any other plan?

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and 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: Success Strategies for Getting It Right, her Coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: