What follows is not legal advice. Instead, it’s some personal advice for teens who are living through their parents’ divorce or its aftermath from a Boca Raton divorce attorney who has handled scores of divorce cases – and worked with scores of families – over a number of years.
When you learn that your parents are divorcing, you might feel any of the emotions listed here or a combination of these emotions. These are natural feelings, and there are healthy, positive ways to cope and deal with these feelings, which may include:
1. anxiety or worry about the future
2. embarrassment about what people may think
3. fear of losing one of your parents
4. guilt if you think – irrationally – that the divorce is your fault
5. shock if you did not expect a divorce
How Can You Process and Deal With What You’re Feeling?
Many teens understandably experience anger and/or depression when their parents get divorced. Some teens also feel relief upon learning that their parents will divorce, because there will be less yelling, anger, and tension in the home, and less potential for domestic violence.
If you are a teenager, you know what divorce is and what it means for a family, but that knowledge will not ease the pain when your own parents are seeking a divorce. Below are five suggestions that can help you deal with the divorce and help you move positively into the future:
Tip #1: Find Someone Appropriate to Talk With
Find a person outside of your family who cares enough to let you “vent” your thoughts and feelings. It might be a teacher, a coach, or someone in your faith community. It doesn’t have to be an older person if you have a friend your own age who is sensitive, thoughtful, and who cares.
You have several friends – your own age and older – who care about you and your feelings and want to help. Although it may be difficult to talk about, tell your closest friends what’s going on and how you feel about it. Their support in this tough time could be exactly what you need.
Your school guidance counselor and your parent’s Florida divorce lawyer may also be helpful. Counselors can provide helpful insights and tips for managing your emotions, and counselors and attorneys both know others in your community who may also provide resources and support.
Tip #2: Set Boundaries for Yourself
Do not allow either of your parents to pressure you into serving as a “confidant” or as a “go-between” during the divorce process. Sometimes in a divorce, parents want their children to carry messages for them between homes. That is not your responsibility.
But if it happens, ask your parents to find a way to communicate with one another that does not involve you. Do not let your parents – whether they do this intentionally or unintentionally – make you feel guilty or pressure you to choose sides.
Tip #3: Don’t Go to Court or Press Your Parents for Details
It’s natural to want to know and understand more about your parents and to want to be involved in their lives, but do not press your parents for details. You already know that relationships are complicated. They do not end in a single moment or over a single incident.
Knowing more details about the divorce will not help heal your pain. And no matter what they might tell you, your parents themselves may not really “understand” what happened between them. Accept that sometimes, there just are no “real answers” to why a marriage ends in divorce.
If you are asked to make a written statement or to speak with a Boca Raton divorce attorney who represents one of your parents, do it, but try to avoid going to court yourself. Nothing can be gained by sitting in a courtroom and watching the long divorce process unfold step-by-step.
Tip #4: Stay Healthy and Live in a Way That Nurtures You
Life is full of temptations that are supposed to make you feel better about things like divorce, but in the long run, you’ll damage your emotions and health by overeating, drinking, using any kind of drugs, or by getting addicted to video games, chat rooms, or anything else online.
But it’s not wrong to immerse yourself in a healthy activity that can take your mind off your parents and their divorce. Spend extra time at the gym or the library and focus on improving your health and/or your mind. If you give in to the temptation to be depressed and to be completely unproductive, you won’t be able to help your parents, brothers, sisters, or anyone else.
The more you confront your feelings – instead of escaping from them – the sooner you’ll be able to deal with your feelings and move ahead constructively with your life. But do not obsess about those feelings. Go out, have fun with your friends, and do the (healthy) things you normally do.