The thing about teenagers is that they have grown past the stage where you can just pick them up and put them in their bedroom. They can vote with their feet and simply walk away if upset or dissatisfied with anything. Alternately, they are also too big to fight with, and one never wants to get into a physical altercation with their child (and particularly not a teenaged child).
What this all means is that to manage the feelings, desires and wishes of a teen, you have to be able to key into them emotionally and empathetically.
When a teen’s parents are going through a divorce, for many teens there is a sense of disillusionment in relationships, concern for what may happen to themselves, a sense that they may have somehow contributed to the parental situation, and for many, a sense of embarrassment in their family. Teen don’t necessarily discuss these issues, feelings or concerns easily. Rather, these issues may come out in behaviour, attitude, withdrawal, drug use, or seeking the company of friends.
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The key to working things through with teens is to forge a caring relationship. This may mean finding ways and times to sit and have brief chats about how they are doing and feeling. It also means surveying how they are coping and what they may be hoping for in terms of a resolution to their living arrangements.
For teens to buy into their change of circumstances, given their age, to the degree to which they feel consulted and have their views taken into consideration, you not only can improve the parent-child relationship, but the likelihood that the teen may be accepting of the outcome.
The challenge for some parents is not getting caught up in any expression of the teen’s upset or anger, but to be emotionally secure enough to withstand hearing the teen’s expression of their feelings. Letting your teen feel heard safely can go a long way to resolving the impact of the changing family structure.