How DOES Divorce Affect Teenagers?

–Soon-To-Be Single Mom

Dear Soon-To-Be Single Mom:

Bottom line–getting a divorce will rock your teens’ world.

Yet chances are your children have already experienced the negative affects of

your strained relationship to your husband. Yongmim Sun, assistant professor at

Ohio State, conducted a National Education Longitudinal Study with over 10,000

students and concluded that: “The negative effects that we associate with

divorce are actually evident in teens at least one year before the marriage has

ended…. It’s not accurate to say divorce doesn’t matter at all, but it is true

that much of the damage to adolescents has already occurred before the divorce.”


, August 2001).

So how will your teens react? There is no way to tell for certain, but generally

teens and pre-teens dealing with their parents divorce may become:

1. Angry and highly critical of their parents’ decision.

2. Depressed or withdrawn from both parents, while seeking stronger connections

with peers.

3. Disillusioned with marriage and feel rejected by one or both parents.

4. Better behaved–hoping that this will save their parents’ marriage.

5. Involved with risk-taking activities (i.e. skipping class, turning to drugs

and alcohol, becoming sexually active, etc.)

6. Withdrawn from one parent as a form of punishment–while taking the side of

the other parent.

Fortunately, you can mitigate some of these negative effects by:

1. Maintaining current family routines (as much as possible) and ensuring that

your kids have quality time with both you and your husband.

2. Resisting the urge to lean on your teens for support and instead seeking

counseling and the support of your own friends.

3. Taking a vow of silence whenever you feel compelled to speak ill of your

husband while in the presence of your children.

4. Ensuring that your teens have support from friends and family. Research

suggests that support from extended members of your family and community can

make a world of difference when it comes to having your teens successfully

survive a divorce.

5. Finding a counselor for your teens that they like and can confide in (school

counselors are sometimes useful to consult).

6. Continuing to expect respect from your teens and maintaining your current

household rules.

Divorce (and the lead up to divorce) puts a strain on everyone in the family. By

striving to make your divorce as amicable as possible, by finding support for

your teens and counseling for you, and by staying connected with your children

you will get through this–and so will they.