How to Help Your Teenager
Here you can read about how to talk to and support your teenager in the middle of divorce and separation, including their rights, well-being and protecting their family relationships.
Your teenager has a right to information, support and advice about your separation.
Children in separating families also have a right to express their feelings to both parents, and need to be listened to and heard without judgement.
To help your child through the separation process, check you are focusing on the following things:
- Do they feel loved and cared for by both parents?
- Are they in contact with relatives on both sides of the family?
- Are they free from financial worries?
- Do they feel supported with their schoolwork?
- Do they feel able to express their own opinions?
- Are they well informed about their living arrangements and are these arrangements reliable and flexible?
- Do they have an opportunity to talk about their feelings?
- Are they protected from potentially harmful information and material, including online, about the separation?
- Are they safe from adults who might abuse or neglect them?
Stuck in the middle, not a good place to be. I’m still only little and this is hurting me – El, 13
Research shows that family relationships are fundamental for all children and teenagers. Relationships are their world. It hurts hugely when these relationships are disrupted.
You need to protect the family relationships that your teenager has as much as you can.
- Support your teenager to enjoy a positive relationship with their other parent, unless this would actually be unsafe for your child. Also support relationships with the wider family on both sides.
- Shield your teenager from conflict as much as possible.
- Introduce new partners gradually, with no expectation that they will replace the other parent.
Research shows that three things are potentially damaging to children:
- Being exposed to a parent who abuses them or neglects them.
- Losing a relationship with a parent who is not abusive or neglectful.
- Being exposed to parents in severe conflict with each other.
It’s a double whammy for your child if serious conflict between you results in him/her losing a positive relationship with one of you. That’s a nightmare scenario – please don’t go there!
Younger Brothers and Sisters
If your teenage child has younger siblings it can be tempting to place them in a carer role. Your teenage child will need to focus on their own well-being at this challenging time. Encourage all siblings to look out for one another but don’t ask older siblings to take on a parenting role. This will only add to their feelings of stress, confusion and anger.
“The breakup is between you and your partner, what is often forgotten is that the child still sees you both the same way. No matter what you think of the other, please don’t influence your child to think the same way that you do about their parent. Try to put your differences aside and support their decisions for their sake. Let them decide for themselves. (Jade, 17)
Checklist: What Teenagers Need
- Flexible time arrangements with parents so they can pursue their own social lives.
- Their parents to stay interested and involved in their lives and activities.
- To be consulted about decisions that affect their lives.
- Reassurance about their future.
- Continued structure and discipline.
- Support in expressing and managing feelings in healthy ways.
- Not to be overburdened with adult information.
- Access to good advice and information – e.g. here!
Further Help and Support
After checking out our content and guides, if you would like to seek further support for you as a parent during divorce & separation, please visit Sorting Out Separation.
What is Sorting out Separation?
Sorting out Separation is a free online resource for parents and couples dealing with divorce or separation.
Sorting out Separation will:
- show you where to find reliable information, easy-to-use tools and specialist services on a range of topics
- help you focus on and deal with the most important issues
- create a personalised list of support services and tools for your circumstances
Who runs Sorting out Separation?
Sorting out Separation is part of the Government’s Help and Support for Separated Families initiative. This initiative aims to encourage parents to seek support, and develop and co-ordinate the support that is available.