Well, it's finally happening. You are divorcing. But how do you help your teenager get through
this process? Well, let's talk about that today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint.
I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize in helping kids, teens, and
families to live happier lives. I lead two organizations, Teen Therapy Center and the non -profit
501c3 organization, Child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland Hills, California.
Every Wednesday at noon, I jump on to Facebook Live to answer your parenting questions. Let's
answer today's. My wife and I are getting divorced after 19 years of marriage. Our daughter,
who is 16, has been kind of guarded about it. She doesn't really want to talk, but I can tell she's
really upset. I'm gonna be moving out, and we'll be sharing custody. How do we make this transition
easier on her? And are there any particular signs I should be looking for to gauge her mental
health if she won't open up? Thank you for your question,
and I'm sorry about your divorce. It's always painful, and it's a tough thing to go through.
First of all, there's nothing easy about divorce for anyone involved, the two people getting
divorced, the kids, the in -laws, everyone. It's tough on everyone, and it's especially tough
on kids, because they really feel out of control. There's no power, no choice. It's just happening
to them. It's a tough thing to do. I'm not saying that you shouldn't get divorced. Sometimes
divorce is the right option. It's the best of bad options, right, possibly. But you've made
this commitment. You're doing it. You're moving out. How to help her through this is, here's
a couple things to think about. There's a lot of things, but we're gonna just name a few. First
of all, I really encourage you to focus on sharing love and keeping that door open with your daughter,
even if she's pushing you away, even if she's guarded, even if she's not sharing it back, that
your love is unconditional. And this is a hard thing
to do, because it can really hurt your feelings when you try to express and share love with your
daughter, and she just kinda dismisses you, or, you know. And it's heartbreaking, because
not only do you feel the heartbreak of the divorce, now you feel possibly that your daughter
is abandoning you or pushing you away. This often is temporary. If you rise to the level of being
the best parent you can be, and keep offering, keep being the parent you know you are, and keep
offering her love and support and compassion and patience, she will turn around and recognize
it. It may take months. It could take years sometimes. I've seen that happen. But I've often
seen this turn around. Things you don't wanna do. Don't lean on your kid for support. Don't lean
on them to take care of you emotionally. You can acknowledge that you're sad, or you're frustrated,
but don't lean on your kid for support. Go somewhere else. Go to your therapist, go to your sister,
your brother, your friends, your cousins, to
get your emotional support other places. You can acknowledge your feelings for your kids,
but don't lean on them for support. Another thing, and this is the big thing, and this is one of
the hardest things to do, don't bad mouth your ex. As much of a monster or villain you may think
he or she is, it doesn't help your kid, it only makes it worse for your kid. Because now they have
to pick sides. They're either gonna feel like they have to pick your side and abandon the other
parent, which is really toxic for the kid, or they resent you for bad mouthing the parent and
they reject you, or they reject both of you. Either way, it really puts so much pressure on a child
to have to choose. And even if your child is venting and complaining about the other parent,
this does not give you license to go, aha, I agree, let's dog pile on mom or dad or whatever it is.
It's not going to help your child. If your child is complaining and says, why does mom do this?
Don't explain why the parent does whatever
they do, no matter how much it bothers you, just say, I don't know, you have to ask her or ask him.
Don't ever try to explain or complain about the other parent. This is a hard thing to do. You can
do it with your therapist, with your friends, wherever it is you want, but not with your kid.
And also to measure how she's doing, if she's not really opening up, how is she doing in school?
Is her approach to school pretty typical of how she's often approached school? Is she still
engaged in social activities, extracurriculars, creative activities? If she's thriving
in other areas of her life, maybe she's doing okay. If you think those things are crumbling or
you're still unsure, it may help to consult with a therapist who focuses on kids and teens and
have that safe place for your kid to open up and talk. If they're not going to open up to you or your
spouse or ex -spouse, maybe they'll open up to that therapist and have that place to go and get
it out. Anyways, it's a big topic. Divorce is
huge. We can do whole workshops on divorce, but we only have a little bit of time here on Tips on
Teens. But I really appreciate your question. Again, my name is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy
Center and the nonprofit Child and Teen Counseling. This is Tips on Teens. If you like this,
please feel free to join our Facebook group, Tips on Teens. And if you have a question you'd like
me to answer, you can email us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter .com. Thanks again, guys.
And I will see you next Wednesday at noon on Facebook Live. Bye -bye.
DIVORCE: HOW TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR YOUR KID
There’s nothing easy about divorce! It’s hard on everyone, not just the two people who are divorcing. And of course, it can be hardest on kids. So what can you do to make divorce better for your child? To make the best of this lousy situation you’re going to have to take the high road. You’re going to have to be the most mature adult you can be, and a very loving and accepting parent. This may be a challenge at times.
Here are some general rules of thumb:
- Never badmouth your ex. This only makes it worse and makes your child feel like they have to choose sides, which causes resentment. Even when your child might be talking badly about your ex, you still must resist this temptation!
- Don’t lean on your kid for emotional support! Your kid isn’t qualified to take care of you emotionally, and burdening them with your feelings will only make it harder. You’re allowed to acknowledge your feelings, just don’t put them in the position of supporting you emotionally. Get some help from friends, family or therapists, but not your kid!
- Focus on offering your kid unconditional love, and being as open as you can be. This can be hard because sometimes they’ll blame you for the divorce and push you away. Make them feel like your door is always open!
- Be the “adult in the room” always and be the best parent you can be.
It’s all easier said than done but we get into the topic in this Tips on Teens:
“My wife and I are getting divorced after 19 years of marriage. Our daughter who is 16 has been kind of guarded about it. She doesn’t really want to talk, but I can tell she’s really upset. I’m going to be moving out and we’ll be sharing custody. How do we make this transition easier on her, and are there any particular signs I should be looking for to gauge her mental health if she won’t open up?”
Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.