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Separating Families and the Impact on Teens… A hurricane & an earthquake all at once

For many couples, when it’s least expected, a decision is made to separate. One parent may feel relieved, while the other parent wrestles with their emotions. If a joint decision to separate is made by the couple and both parties communicate well, anxiety is reduced. If either party is emotionally or financially vulnerable (and most are), a legal war between the two may commence. 

When you think of yourself, your partner or your ex-partner, are you secure within yourself, or do you feel emotionally / financially fragile? 

Be honest. No one needs to know your answer. 

The unique needs of a teenager 

Separating or already separated parents sometimes don’t appreciate their children’s real feelings. Teens, under the best of circumstances, are slow to express their inner thoughts and keep private

thoughts to themselves. Under stress and in confusing times, those thoughts and feelings may be expressed with a sense of selfish entitlement. Comments made can be similar amongst many teens, as if taken from TV shows. These comments frequently surprise their parents. 

“We weren’t involved in your decision to separate.” 

“This isn’t fair. We’re doing what we want now.” 

“Couldn’t you have waited a few more years until I leave?” 

Children from separated families frequently become master manipulators. After all, they can now easily play one parent against the other. It often works. 

Parenting strategies for teenagers during separation 

Being a separated parent of a teenager requires special parenting skills. Most important is the ability to communicate with their other parent, “your ex”. This can reduce their manipulation and

empower both parents. If possible, parents need to parent teenagers without fear. Without this mutual parental cooperation, there’s always going to be a better deal. Accept that’s the way teenagers think. Teens are caught between being their parent’s child and needing to be adult-like in society. Parent your teen within the context of your own values and consider the needs of all family members. Stick to what you believe is appropriate. Always ask them, don’t tell them. Chances are that their minds are elsewhere in any case. 

You also want to make sure you establish appropriate rules in your own home. This is difficult, but you can do it. It’s your home. 

Lastly, teens need to feel loved, always, no matter what they do or say. They’re also experiencing the ‘separation’. They’re on the cusp of adulthood, they want to push the envelope, but they know they can only go so far. Many teens take it as far as they can by asserting themselves as “the new boss”. 

As parents, you need to put things in perspective and recognize what’s important. You need to be the voice of reason. You need to provide the stability they need to transition through childhood into adulthood in a healthy and highly functional manner. 

When Parents Do Well, Children Do Well