How Your Divorce Can Be Impacting Your Troubled Teen

As parents, we try to make decisions that are in the best interests of our children. That can sometimes include deciding to divorce your partner. It is estimated that 40% of teens will see their parents divorcing before they turn 18.

Divorce is often portrayed as being a hugely damaging life event. But, for many, it is a positive and fresh start. Unhappy parents can create a home environment that is bordering on toxic for everyone living under that roof. In most situations, a divorce can lead to much happier parents and better overall family life.

There is more to think about for those who have teens already struggling with several concerns, such as depression or substance abuse. As you decide to move forward with a divorce, you may wonder just how your divorce can potentially impact your troubled teen.

In addition to facing concerns with custody, support, and visitation, you could be facing behavioral issues. You could also see the worsening of substance abuse concerns.

The positive aspects of getting a divorce

If movies and media would have their way, we’d all think that divorce results in our teens dropping out, becoming anxious and depressed, turning to drugs, or getting arrested. That is not to say that this doesn’t become a reality for many troubled teens. But there are some positive points to divorce.

  • Children of divorce can learn more about positive problem solving and effective ways to communicate.
  • Children, whether little kids or teens, can benefit from more one-on-one time with their parents.
  • A decrease in stress and arguments in the house can result in increased happiness for every family member. Stability and security are possible when two parents are living apart. It is this stability and security that children need more than their two parents living under one roof.

It is essential to keep in mind that the way children react to their parent’s divorce can vary significantly between age, gender, financial security in the home, and a range of other factors.

How your troubled teen could react to a divorce

Interestingly, research has shown that teen boys are more likely to react with a strong negative response to their parents’ divorce than teen girls are. Teenage girls could struggle with adjusting to their new lifestyle and could become depressed or angry. These concerns do generally subside within a year.

Teen boys could see an increase in delinquent behaviors. They could be at an increased risk for fighting or bullying.

Some of the other concerns that troubled teen boys could begin to display include:

  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns that he may not have previously struggled with.
  • Decreased self-esteem and negative self-speak that includes being overly critical about his physical appearance or intelligence.
  • Displays of anger and violence, including abusive language or behavior towards other members of the family. Siblings can often bear the brunt of angry outbursts, which can be frightening for them.
  • Troubles at school, including dropping grades and an increase in detention or suspensions. He may also skip school or initiate fights with other children.
  • Smoking cigarettes or turning to vaping tobacco.
  • Drug use and abuse. This could include prescription and illegal drugs.
  • Alcohol use and abuse. Alcohol is relatively easy for teens to get, so this can often fast become a concern.
  • Becoming sexually active at an early age. This is a concern faced by both teen boys and girls. Troubled teens are also at an increased risk of unplanned pregnancy.

On the heels of your divorce, which may have been quite stressful, having issues with your troubled teen can be too much for you to cope with. You may start to also lean on some unhealthy coping strategies as well. However, these behaviors are not going to help encourage your troubled teen to find his way back to normalcy because you are not modeling healthy coping mechanisms or habits.

How can you help your troubled teen cope with your divorce?

Your first instinct as a parent is to try and fix everything as best you can while burdening yourself with a significant amount of guilt. The good news is that there are several things that you can do to help your troubled teen and your family to heal.

  • Individual and family therapy. This can offer your family the neutral space you need to work through the concerns that are troubling your family. Open conversations can become heated and emotional. The safe and neutral space of a therapist’s office can help to diffuse some of those heated conversations.
  • Ensure that you keep the lines of communication open with every member of your family. Remind your family that they can always come to you with concerns.
  • Work as a parenting partner with your ex to ensure a stable environment and unified parental front.

When drugs and alcohol are involved and are combined with behavioral issues, you could see a large negative impact on your family as a whole. If you have younger children in the home, you must take steps to protect them.

If your troubled teen is aggressive and violent, it might be best for younger children to remove the teen from the situation temporarily. Consider in-patient treatment or a therapeutic boarding school. This structured and safe environment can allow your teen to focus on recovery and learn how to cope better.

Is there anything that you can do to prevent trouble with teens during a divorce?

While your troubled teen may be already struggling, there are some things that you can do to make things easier for all members of the family.

  • Keep things cordial, peaceful, and even friendly. Divorce is infinitely easier when each of the parents are getting along.
  • Be fair, and don’t ask any children to take sides. They should feel free to spend time and communicate with each parent without being worried they’ll upset the other.
  • Keep communication open and going. Spending time between two homes can be stressful enough. Send quick text messages to remind them that you’re thinking of them.
  • Reassure everyone that no one is at fault.
  • Provide age-appropriate answers to questions asked. Don’t delve too deep into adult concerns.

Divorce can be stressful, expensive, and costly in so many ways. The good news is that the emotional costs can be managed with the help of compassionate and experienced professionals who are familiar with the emotional and behavioral fallout of divorce.

If your troubled son is struggling to adapt to significant life changes, there are great programs that can help. At Liahona Treatment Center, we offer the structured support that troubled teens need to work through mental wellness concerns. A therapeutic boarding school provides several benefits for the teen in crisis.

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