How Divorce Affects Teenagers

Understanding how divorce affects teenagers can help you realize that even though they are old enough to understand what is going on and why, they are probably feeling betrayed and unsure about the whole situation. 

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Unfortunately, teen often blame themselves to some degree for their parent's divorce. Add this sense of guilt to the normal teenage angst, and it can make it hard for them to cope with everything.

The following excerpt reveals some of the emotions that teens experience when their parents divorce.

"It's My Fault!"

By Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski

When my parents divorced, I never really thought they would get back together. I did, however, believe that my father would one day become more involved in my life again. That never happened, though, and I couldn't understand it.

Teen gazing out window, worried about her parent's divorce

For a long time, I blamed myself. I thought my dad's behavior was my fault. I thought I had to earn his attention by being a perfect daughter: never get into trouble, never get angry at him, do everything I was supposed to do. I managed to do all these things, but it didn't change anything.

As time went on, my hurt grew even bigger than my confusion. I started to take my parents' separation personally, as if it meant they didn't love me anymore.

Maybe you, too, have thought this: If my parents really loved me, they would have tried harder to make their marriage work. Perhaps you think less of yourself now, as if you're doomed to fail because of their divorce.

Here's the most important thing you can understand about your parents' breakup: The problems between your parents are never about you. Separation or divorce doesn't mean your parents love you any less. It concerns only their feelings toward each other, not toward you.

You aren't responsible for your parents' divorce!

Just as you were not responsible for your parents' marriage, neither are you responsible for their separation or divorce. Maybe you've heard your parents arguing about you, or maybe they're having a court battle about custody or child-support payments. When the main topic of your parents' arguments is you, it's easy to think the problems are all your fault. However, they never are.

Consider friends who have disappointed you. Have you ever had a friend dump you because he or she wanted to be friends with someone more popular? Maybe this person had even been your best friend. You really wanted to stay friends with him or her and did all you could to be a good friend, but still things didn't work out. You're left feeling hurt and angry, right?

Unfortunately, despite our trying to do our best, people let us down. It's often easier to blame ourselves when this happens than to see the other person's shortcomings. However, we need to remember that the situation isn't about who we are or what we've done (or not done). Rather, it's about who that person is.

Where do you stand with all this? When you're really honest with yourself, what thoughts do you have about being responsible for your parents' breakup?

Taking your anger out by lashing out at your parent-or anyone else-is a destructive way of coping with your feelings. While you may have good reason to be angry, the challenge is to find a constructive way to deal with those feelings. It starts with understanding your feelings and trying to forgive the parent with whom you're angry. This will help keep your anger from spilling over into all of your relationships and possibly jeopardizing friendships that could be supportive for you. 

This song by James TW highlights how kids sometimes experience their parents divorce.

Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski bio

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When you understand how divorce affects teenagers, it can help you cope with their emotions and get through the tough times. Below you can find more articles about parenting teenagers to help you through this stage: