Divorce and Teenagers

It's never easy going through divorce and teenagers often experience a wide range of emotions that you may have never thought of. After all, they are on their way to becoming adults, and basically know why Mom and Dad are getting divorced. Or do they? The following story and quiz explores some of the emotions that may come up during divorce and teenagers various reactions to what is happening in their lives.

Whose Fault is It Anyway?

Teen girl gazing down contemplating problems

Lisa hears something tap the window. She gets up from the piano and looks outside, but everything looks the same. She stands there with her arms folded, watching the cars zoom past on the busy parkway in front of her house. Everyone seems to know where they're going, but not her.

She still doesn't know why her parents had to get a divorce. Couldn't they have worked out their problems if they had gone to counseling? Did they really try hard enough?

She sits back down at the piano and turns to Chopin's Prelude in D-flat Major. She positions her fingers above the keys and plays the tranquil melody. She remembers the last conversation she heard between her parents. They were fighting about her grades. Her dad said they weren't good enough. Then he went on to blame her mother because she let Lisa spend so much time talking on the telephone and hanging out at the mall. He also said Lisa should be doing more chores, especially cleaning her messy room. Maybe if she had worked harder and been the type of daughter her dad had wanted, none of her parents' problems would have started.

The melody changes. It can't be all her fault. Her parents had been fighting for years. They must have fought about other things besides her. She moves her right thumb up to hit the black G-sharp key over and over. Maybe she should have told her dad she loved him more often. Maybe that would have given him a reason to stay.

She plays the original melody again. She should have done more to try and fix things. The melody softens. She wishes she knew more about why they had to get a divorce, so she wouldn't feel so confused all the time. She stops playing, even though she hasn't finished the piece. She pulls the cover over the keyboard and turns off the piano light.

Who's To Blame: A Divorce Quiz

How Do You See It? When there's a problem, what's your first reaction? Circle one letter for each question.

1) If Lisa were your friend, which of these statements would you most likely say to her?

a. "I'm glad I'm not the only one. I often feel guilty about the way things are."

b. "Stop beating yourself up. This is a problem between your parents. They are responsible for it, not you."

c. "The divorce is probably your dad's fault. He should get a clue and not be so strict."

d. "God owes you an explanation. I'd ask him why he took your dad away."

2) Your gut reaction to your parents' separation or divorce is:

a. Maybe there's something I could have done (or could do) to change things.

b. Mom and Dad are the ones who have to work out their problems. I'm staying out of it.

c. I'm still pretty angry, especially at my mom/dad. If she/he had been more responsible, I wouldn't be in this mess.

d. If God really loved me, he'd make my parents get back together (or make my parent a better parent).

3) Which of these statements best describes you?

a. Succeeding in life is a lot like succeeding in school. You can get most anything you want, if you try hard enough.

b. It's pretty easy for me to let go of a problem or situation I can't do anything about. You can control some things in life, but there's a lot you can't control, too.

c. There is always someone at fault in every problem. Those who are at fault are often bad people.

d. If I always try to be a good person, God will reward me with what I want.

4) Suppose two of your closest friends just had a really bad fight. How would you most likely respond to them?

a. I would listen to what each has to say, and then do my best to help them resolve their differences.

b. I would be supportive of both of them. I wouldn't take sides, though, because I wouldn't want to lose either friend.

c. I'd take the side of the friend whom I was closer to. That kind of loyalty is an important part of friendship.

d. I'd take the side of the person who had a better moral character.

Your Score

If you circled mostly a's, you're pretty hard on yourself. It's as if you're always frowning at yourself, telling yourself that you should be doing more. Blaming yourself when things go wrong is a seductive option because it lets you believe that you have power to fix things. The harder reality to face is that your parents' have shortcomings and make mistakes, that their separation or divorce is not of your making and is certainly beyond your fixing.
While you have good intentions, you need to accept what you can't control: other people's problems. It's time to start being good to yourself. Don't give into the false belief that you've caused any of this, because you haven't. Stay out of your parents' conflict and let them handle it.

Mostly B's - STEADY EDDY:
If you circled mostly b's, you are doing a good job of being fair, objective and faithful to your principles. While it might not be easy, you avoid taking one of your parent's sides, and you realize that only they can solve their problems. And you recognize what you can and cannot control. You don't jump to conclusions either. Instead, you try to get as many facts as possible before forming an opinion. Congratulations!

Mostly C's - THE FIGHTER:
If you circled mostly c's, your anger is controlling you. Maybe one parent has told you details about the separation or divorce that has turned you against the other. Or perhaps you've taken the side of the parent you feel you need to protect, or the one who treats you better. But a separation or divorce is not one person's fault. Rarely is there one "good guy" and one "bad guy." While one parent might seem to be more at fault than the other, both have some responsibility for the situation. Dumping all the blame on one parent isn't fair. It won't help you discover the truth, and it won't help you feel any better.

Mostly D's - THE GOD-DUMPER:
If you circled mostly d's, you're quick to blame God when things go wrong. You probably have a strong sense of right and wrong, which is good. You may get angry at God a lot, too, which is okay because God understands. The problem you run into is the common belief that God causes bad things to happen. When we're in the middle of something bad, we tend to ask, "Why me? Why did God let this happen?" Here's something very important to consider: God doesn't make bad things happen. Rather, God is a loving God and, out of love, gives us free will. And because of this, everyone is free to make choices and so to make mistakes.
God doesn't promise anyone a problem-free life, no matter how good we are. What God offers, instead, is strength and direction to cope with our problems and grow from them.

When my parents separated, I didn't concern myself with finding out the facts. It didn't matter to me what each parent did or who was more "right" or more "wrong." All I cared about was seeing my dad again. That didn't happen, though, for a long time, and my relationship with him grew only more uncertain. When it became too much for me to handle, all I knew was that the situation was someone's fault.

Blaming is often an automatic reaction. It's easy to blame a parent or someone or something else when you're upset about the changes that the separation or divorce brings. Blaming can also serve as a quick fix that leaves you feeling more in control. This is especially tempting if you feel you have no say in the decisions that your parents are making.

Excerpt from Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski's book Now What Do I Do?

For addition articles about covering divorce and teenagers, as well as how to discuss the subject with your children, keep reading...