If you’re going through a divorce and have teenagers, you may be wondering how best to talk to your teens about your separation and divorce.

Ella Hickman, owner and principal of Hickman Family Lawyers in Perth, has a wealth of experience when it comes to helping families divorce as amicably as possible. She has put together her essential tips on how to talk to your teens about divorce.


Be Prepared

Your first task is to break the news as painlessly as possible and assure the children that they are still loved by both parents and will continue to be cared for. To do that, both parents need to be fully prepared.

That means considering all future living and care arrangements well in advance, before breaking the news to the children. There will be questions, such as “who stays? who goes?” and “who will we be living with?”. You need to have all your answers at the ready.

Agree with your ex on what to say and how much information you will share with the children and be prepared to deal with a wide range of emotions, while remaining calm yourselves.


Present A United Front

Doing it together and presenting a united front, sends the message that you remain being a family, despite perhaps now living in separate homes. That message becomes clearer when both parents remain calm, laying out the future, without anger, arguments or blaming each other for the separation.

Keep presenting a united front throughout the divorce process and not just when breaking the news. Allow them time to process their thoughts, and gradually come to terms with the situation.


Explain What Will Change

It is natural for children to be anxious to know what life will be like after the divorce. So pay special attention when explaining the things that will change in their lives. The most important issues teens raise are often: who they will live with, how often they will be seeing the other parent, and if they will be moving.

Avoid discussing any legal or financial matters that do not need to concern them, and don’t involve them in any conflict that may arise between you and your spouse. However, do keep them updated throughout the divorce proceedings on matters that affect them directly when needed.


Focus On Things That Won’t Change

Perhaps, even more important is to let your teen know all the things that aren’t going to change. The more things that won’t change in their lives, the less anxiety and stress they will feel.

Allay their fears by stressing points such as still attending the same school, seeing their friends and family regularly, and continuing to participate in their chosen sport, hobbies, or their other usual recreational activities. 


Acknowledge Their Emotions & Listen To Their Concerns

Going through a divorce is an extremely emotionally challenging process for any adult, and even more so for teenagers, who are already dealing with their own set of physical and emotional changes. They may feel overwhelmed or feel sadness, fear, confusion, anger, and resentment about the situation.

All these emotions are normal and are to be expected, even if they are initially aimed at you. You need to acknowledge their emotions and really listen to their concerns, whatever they may be.

On the other hand, they may feel relief, if your marriage was affected by ongoing conflict, forms of abuse or even physical violence. They may see the divorce as an end to an unpleasant period of their lives, and look forward to a new beginning.


Mean What You Say

The golden rule would be to not make promises you cannot keep and always tell them the truth in an age appropriate way. No matter how small or trivial a promise you make may seem to you, keep them to show that you mean what you say. This will help you establish trust in a new unchartered time of all your lives.


Let Them Ask Questions Anytime

Encourage them to ask questions anytime, and always answer them truthfully. If you don’t have the answer just yet, say so. Show them that you take their concerns seriously by asking for their opinions on certain matters. This will reassure them that they are an important part of the family and their opinions and questions are not only validated but welcome.


Look out For Signs They Aren’t Coping

During a divorce, teens will need some time to adjust and there may be periods when they don’t seem to be coping and need help. They may show that in many different ways. Some may shut down and keep to themselves, others could become needier, perhaps temperamental, regress at school, or become rebellious. Others may even show no reaction and pretend all is well. That too is a reaction and could be a sign that they aren’t coping as you may have thought.

Look out for these signs and encourage them to be open, honest and express their feelings at all times. Showing that you’re still there for them, will go a long way in managing their feelings and helping them to cope during this difficult period in their lives.



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