If you are currently married with children, you may be worried about whether a divorce will have an impact on your teen’s well-being. While divorce is often the best choice for many couples, there is no doubt that it affects other people in your lives.
Though roughly one in two marriages will end in divorce, getting divorced is still a major decision. In addition to needing to restructure your own life following this major move, you will also need to be concerned about restructuring the lives of your children. The way that you do this is something that needs to be handled with care.
If you are about to, in the process of, or have just recently gone through a divorce, you may find yourself having a lot of questions. What do I say to my teen? How can I create a comfortable life for them? How can I ensure that our new family dynamic is better than the old one?
These questions do not always have easy answers. However, asking them is still the first step towards having a much larger conversation. In this article, we will attempt to answer some of the most common questions have about the effects of divorce on today’s teens. By doing all you can to increase your knowledge on this subject, you will be able to make the decisions that are right for your family.
Is there a link between teen depression and divorce?
Depression is a complicated mental health condition, though it is also among the most common. Depression is characterized by a consistently low mood, lack of motivation, negative outlook on life, frequent sadness, and various other symptoms. If these symptoms describe what your teenager has been experiencing, you may want to consider reaching out to a youth depression treatment center.
Depression in teens can be caused by many things including genetics, exposure to traumatic events, bullying in school, substance abuse, and sudden changes in an individual’s life. Divorce is one of the most common “sudden” changes, which is why many psychologists believe it to be a major risk factor.
According to a 15-year study published by BMC Psychiatry, teenagers whose parents get divorced are more likely to develop depression and are also more likely to experience depressive symptoms later on in life. The study further goes on to claim, “Parental separation may have long-lasting health consequences for vulnerable individuals who suffer from mental illness already in adolescence.”
What are some of the other psychological risks of divorce?
As suggested, the psychological risks of divorce are profound. Other conditions that have been found to be commonly correlated with divorce include:
· Anxiety and bipolar disorder
· Eating and sleeping disorders
· Substance abuse disorders
· Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (especially in households where abuse is present)
· Difficulties performing in school
· Patterns of self-harm
A Harvard University study revealed that children of divorce have lower grades in school and are also more likely to have difficulty making friends (though there may be some overlapping variables at play). Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry claims that teenager whose parents have been divorced are roughly three times as likely to need psychological help over the course of a year (35 percent versus 13 percent).
Does it make sense to “stay together for the kids”?
As you can clearly see, divorce is not a “one-sided” decision. As long as your children are an active part of your life, your divorce is likely to have at least a minor impact on their psychological well-being.
One of the most common questions that are asked by parents considering divorce is, “should we stay together for the kids?” While you may want a quick and easy answer to this question, the reality of the matter, unfortunately, is quite a bit more complicated.
While the statistics regarding the effects of divorce on children are shocking, they should not be the sole source of your decision-making. In fact, children who are raised in homes where the parents are together, but are constantly fighting (whether verbally or physically) may face even more negative psychological consequences.
If there is abuse, infidelity, or anything else that cannot be tolerated in your household, then divorce should still be considered a viable option. You should not feel personally guilty for getting divorced, especially if you are a victim of abuse. However, you will still need to acknowledge this simple psychological truth: divorce is not the worst thing that can happen in your household, but it will still affect your children.
How can I help decrease the likelihood of my teen becoming depressed?
One of the problems with many of the studies mentioned in this article is that some of the statistics are viewed along a binary (divorced v not divorced, depressed v not depressed) rather than a spectrum. What these studies also demonstrate is that while many children of divorce do suffer, even more go on to live happy, psychologically normal lives. The question you are probably asking yourself now is “what, if anything, can I do to make a positive difference?”
· Sit down with your child and have a serious conversation about divorce. Assure them that is not their fault and you want to make a positive change.
· If depression and other mental health conditions do begin to surface, connect your teen with the professional resources they need.
· Ask your teen for input about their preferred living situation—this is a component of the divorce that will directly affect them the most.
· Avoid fighting and arguing with your spouse (or ex-spouse) in front of your children.
· Avoid saying negative things about your spouse to your children (even if they’re true)
· Consider seeing an individual therapist, focusing specifically on the effects of divorce on both you and your family.
There is no “magic cure” to teen depression, but there are certain things you can do to help. As a parent, your goal should be to separate your teen from the fray of the divorce to the greatest extent you can. You should also make a conscious effort to offer unconditional love and support along the way.
Once you’ve acknowledged that your divorce will have an impact on your teen’s psychological well-being, you can begin taking actions to make a positive difference. While statistically, they are more likely to become depressed, this depression is something that can likely be managed (or avoided). Keeping these things in mind, the best path forward should be clear.