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The Effects of Divorce on Teenagers and How to Manage Them

Mental Health & Self Love

April 06, 2023

As society changes, divorce becomes more common. I believe that no one feels the effects of parental divorce as much as teenagers. A divorce leaves lingering effects on everybody, and in hopes of making this difficult time easier for teenagers, I have provided top tips on dealing with the most common scenarios.

Family fighting and how to cope

While some marriages end with little to no conflict, the same cannot be said about the majority. Many marriages come to an abrupt end as the result of cheating, money problems, family stress etc. Unfortunately, this can lead to arguing--particularly before the divorce process is finished and the parents are still living together.

This can be horrendous for children of any age to listen to and can result in strong feelings of anger, stress, and anxiety. A key thing to remember at this time is that this is temporary. The fighting will cease, and while the relationship your parents later forge will not necessarily be civil, you will hopefully no longer be privy to these situations.

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Image Source: RDNE Stock project

In situations like this, try your best to give yourself--and your parents--space. Find a quiet area within your home, or perhaps spend some time with a friend or family member. Share your worries and concerns with these individuals.

You must find support. If comfortable, share your feelings with your parents. Tell them how the conflict is affecting you, and give them methods they could use to make this time easier for everyone. Encourage them to give each other space, go on a walk, or speak to a trusted loved one.

The struggle of the custody battle: how to make the right choice for you

For many readers, the custody battle will be a familiar one. This refers to a highly emotional dispute where parents cannot decide who the child will live with. While this is not part of every divorce, it is unfortunately common.

You may be asked who you would rather live with, made to choose, and this can cause a large amount of stress for teenagers. You must make the right decision for yourself: whether you decide to live with one parent permanently, split your time 50/50, or even let your parents decide for you. Ways to make the best decision could be to think about where you want to live--you may want to stay somewhere familiar or try somewhere new--or take into account your relationship with both parents. Who would you be most comfortable living with?

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Moving homes would be exciting in any other circumstance. However, on top of the divorce, moving is just another stressor that can result in you feeling alone and isolated. It is crucial that, at these times, you stay connected with loved ones and friends.

Filling the unfamiliar with the familiar can ease the discomfort that comes with moving into a new home and leaving things behind. Once again, make sure to communicate your feelings with your parents so they know what they can do to help you.

Brothers and sisters

I am an older sibling myself, and this was certainly one of the hardest aspects of my parents' divorce. It was difficult to watch how it affected my sister, spiking anger in the youngest as she didn't understand. To this day--eight years later--having siblings is still probably one of the hardest aspects.

My parents are now remarried, and I have an extra sister on either side. Every fortnight, my youngest sister struggles with our absence. She is too young to fully understand the situation and resents the setup.

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Image Source: RDNE Stock project

Frequently, my sisters will bring up events from before the divorce, and I feel a chill sweep through the room. It's as if that early life turned into a taboo subject, bringing tension with every mention.

At these times, it is important to remember that it is not their fault--the younger they are, the harder they will find it to read the room and may not understand why such conversation can bring discomfort. Secondly, it is your parent's job to explain the situation; you are not responsible for minding your sibling's words.

Meeting new people

If your parent remarries, this means you will likely be meeting the family members of this individual. This could mean step-grandparents, step-cousins, step-aunts etc. Meeting these individuals is certainly not easy and in my experience, the older you are, the more difficult you will find connecting with these people.

Meeting new families can stir up a range of emotions, and it can take time to come to terms with it. You should never pressure yourself to spend time with anyone you don't want to. However, you may find that the more time you spend with them, the easier relationships will form.

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Image Source: Sir Lodi

You can expect that some relationships will come easier than others; you may bond with cousins of a similar age, or share similar interests with an aunt or uncle. There will also be some individuals you never bond with, and it will feel like you are forever strangers. This is okay.

I was fortunate enough to gain a step-sister, and while I love her very much, it can be difficult. She is of a similar age, and so I feel a kind of rivalry that I don't with any of my other sisters. I think it is important to not put too much pressure on yourselves to get along--siblings aren't meant to be consistently civil, and arguments are common. Free Photography of Two Women Sitting on Ground Facing on Body of Water Stock Photo

Image Source: luizph

Overall, my most important piece of advice would be to go with the flow. Try your best to live in the present, not the future; it will work itself out. You may find that after the divorce, your home life improves, and there will come a time when you are less wistful about the past and more contemplative about the future.

You will learn your way around this new normal. Also, remember that there is support for those who need it - websites such as Childline, MIND and Teen Line, can provide invaluable information and hotlines for those in urgent need. Wishing you all the best.

Erin Molyneux

Writer since Jan, 2023 · 3 published articles

Erin is a year 12 student (Grade 11), who loves reading, writing and learning new things. She enjoys projects and volunteering for charities. Erin hopes to go into editing or publishing, but for now she is building her experience by writing for Teenmag, arc-reading, beta-reading and studying A-Level English Literature and Language.