Helping Teenage Children through Divorce
Are you one of the many Canadian baby boomers choosing long-term relationship solutions over marriage? The Globe and Mail has discovered that a growing number of older people in Canada are choosing to live together, while others opt for a steady, monogamous commitment but living in separate homes. As marriage rates drop, cohabiting solutions among the over 50s are on the rise, increasing from 9.1% of the demographic in 2006 to 10.8% in 2011 (the latest figures available at this time). So, what’s causing the trend?
A little bit of history
Well, without a doubt, the baby boomers were one of the first generations to question the importance or even functionality of marriage, getting divorced en masse and, in many cases, on more than one occasion. Indeed, when the Canadian government legalized no-fault marriage dissolution in 1986, around 50% of marriages came to an end. Even today, baby boomer divorce figures in Canada are around one in three.
Naturally, a large number of baby boomers who go through divorce have teenage children to consider. According to Canterbury Law Group, a child custody attorney in Scottsdale, “a key component of any divorce with children is a court enforceable joint parenting plan”. The question is, how is divorce best managed when teenage children are involved and is there anything we, as parents, can do to make the changes they are about to live through any easier?
Helping teenage children through a divorce
Without a doubt all children at any age are affected by divorce, just as they are affected by social interactions, educational programs, the loss of a pet and a whole host of other life experiences that we simply cannot shield them from even if we tried. Even so, it’s important to recognize that age matters. Young children are not affected in the same way as teenagers.
Keep your teenager informed
Teenagers are more tuned into their parents’ emotions and actions than younger children. It’s likely your teenager senses divorce even before you do. The key is to ensure that you don’t leave your teenager out in the cold with unanswered questions or suspicions. If you and your partner begin marriage counseling, make sure your teenager knows about it. It might make them worry a little, but it will be better than telling them out of the blue that you’re suddenly getting a divorce and will no longer be living together.
Include your teenager in family discussions
Teenagers are in the middle of assuming more control over their lives. They have a right to be a part of the discussion that will decide where they live and with which parent. If staying with Dad means getting up an hour earlier for school than staying with Mom, make sure they’re aware of the circumstances but give them the option of choosing what’s best for them.
Be conscious of the fact that your teenager will probably also want to spend time with his or her friends. If he or she has to always stay with Dad on the weekend, this might disrupt other important social activity. It might be best to sometimes see Dad one night during the week, for instance. Essentially, the new schedule and new arrangements need to take your teenager’s wishes into consideration as well.
Introduce new partners with care
There may also come a time when either Mom or Dad wants to begin dating or even enter into a new relationship with someone else. However, teenagers are highly observant. They are always watching what we do, even if they make no comment on it. It’s important not to expose your teenager to a number of different partners or short-lived affairs, but instead to form a relationship away from their beady eyes until such time when you are serious about making a definite commitment. Even then, introducing this new person should be formal and slow. Too much, too soon, can cause emotional traumas, with teenagers thinking that if they spend too much time with this new figure they are somehow “cheating” on the other parent.
Help is available
Canada’s legal system has recognized the difficulty some teenagers experience due to divorce, which is why family justice services across the country have educational programs in place; some of which are made compulsory by the court upon divorce to give separated families the support they need.
Never be frightened or feel like a failure when asking for help or turning to external sources in order to find the right solution. If you’ve never been through a divorce before either, then remember, you aren't expected to immediately know all the answers.