There is sadly, an increase in parents divorcing in their 40’s and 50’s. All too often the teenage children are resentful of their parents separating and can in turn attempt to punish one parent for spoiling the security they felt with their parents together.
They may have forgotten how unhappy their parents were, or the arguments that sent them dashing off to their bedroom to stay out of the way. They see things very ‘black and white’ there are no grey areas – no adult understanding of adult problems and indeed why they should understand, they are after all still children.
Can we all think about getting to an age where we remember the advice given to us by our parents – that at the time we thought was rubbish – that we suddenly realised was sound advice? I know I certainly can. When I raised this with my own Father to his credit he never said “I told you so”
It is the same for teenage children who face the upsetting experience of their parent’s separation, they cannot see it from an adult’s perspective, and they only see it from their own viewpoint.
So, how can you as the adult facing the dilemma help? At a time when your life as you knew it has ended, you may be happy about that, or otherwise, but the key to ensuring your relationship with your teenage child survives the separation and divorce, is to be honest with your child about why it has happened. Resist the temptation to blame the other parent, tempting as it may be if you feel you are the injured party. If you are the one who chose to end the marriage try to explain in appropriate terms why you no longer love their Mum or Dad. Remember too that your child loves both of you and in their eyes you are the best parents in the world. They don’t want you to have any faults. Accept they may be very angry – allow them to express their anger and hurt – even if it is directed at you. Tell them you love them no matter how upsetting it may be to hear what they have to say. Love them unconditionally and never give up doing so.
If you have left the family home, make sure you keep in regular contact. This is often more difficult with older children as they have friends who are much more fun than parents, and of course school studies. Send a text, or email saying hello – make regular phone calls. Ensure they know you think of them – that they are important and you want to know how their day has gone. Suggest meeting for coffees – or going out – do something you always did together. If you always had shared interests then continue it after the separation. Above all keep the communications going. Allow them to be angry with you or your ex-partner, do not make excuses, it is far better for them to understand people do grow apart and life can change; that sometimes it will mean both parents become happier than they were together, than to play the blame game. Admit your own faults without blaming the other parent. You have to be the grown up and say you are sorry they have been hurt and upset by what has happened between Mum & Dad.
Often the child will feel intense dislike and resentment to the ‘other woman, or man’ seeing that person as the reason their parents are apart. Help your child to understand that the other person is not to blame, particularly if the other person is going to be in a relationship with their Mum or Dad. Point out the other persons good points, even if you don’t feel like doing – your child needs permission to like the person, to do otherwise is harmful to your child. You should teach your child forgiveness and how to move on to be happy. Bitterness is not the way to happiness.
Above all reassure your child that they are loved by both parents, who still love each other but not in the same way they once did. Show respect and affection for the other parent – it allows your child to learn that life can be good after divorce and that at their wedding Mum & Dad will be there enjoying the day without any unpleasantness. You will always be Mum & Dad.
Going through a divorce can be difficult for all involved. For legal advice on your situation including the division of assets and child arrangements, speak to Farleys’ family team on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry through our online contact form.