Teenagers and divorce: A parent's guide

Dealing with separation or divorce is emotionally challenging. It can feel more so when considering the impact on your teen or nearly teenage child. It's a time of change and intense emotions for everyone. Helping teenagers through this process can be challenging but it's so important for their well-being. Here are some strategies for you to consider:



Having open and honest conversations with your teenager about the separation or divorce may seem daunting, but it's crucial. Rather than just a one-off conversation, think of these as ongoing talks as your teen starts to process and understand what is happening. Your teen needs to feel listened to and understood during this time, so allow them to communicate how they're feeling. By actively listening to what they have to say, you can work out together what they need to feel safe and that things will work out in time.


Teenagers often experience strong emotions when their parents separate or divorce. They may feel angry, sad, and confused. As a parent, it is important to support and listen to their feelings without trying to jump in and fix how they're feeling. By acknowledging their emotions and showing understanding, you can help them feel more confident and resilient. Encourage them to talk openly and create a safe space for them to express themselves without worrying about being judged.

Stability and routine

Your teenager might have practical concerns, too. For instance, they might worry about where they'll live, whether they'll have to leave the family home and move away from friends and school and whether they'll have to negotiate two homes.

Maintaining stability and routine as much as possible can give a sense of security during a time of upheaval. If your teens follow their usual routine, stay in the same house or area, go to the same school, and keep up with their everyday activities, they'll find it easier to cope with the change. Even if you and your teen aren't living together full-time, you can still stay connected and involved in each other's lives. Keep doing the unique things you've always done – playing sports, cooking together, watching films together, or shopping.

Avoiding conflict

Make it a priority to minimise conflict in front of your kids. Witnessing arguments or tension between parents can be distressing for teens and may exacerbate their emotional distress. Exposure to hostility and constant conflict isn't good for anyone's well-being. Avoid discussing difficulties related to the separation or negative comments about the other parent in front of your child. If you need to vent, talk to a friend, family member or someone you feel comfortable with when your child is not around.


If at all possible, work with your ex so you both prioritise your child's well-being. Keep your communication with your ex respectful and focus on making joint decisions regarding your teenager's upbringing.


Your child might be unable to explain that they're having a hard time, but some signs show they're struggling with the transition. Watch out for increased anger, not wanting to cooperate, spending more time alone, sleep or eating issues, not being interested in their usual activities, problems with friends, or risky behaviours.

You may have already recognised these signs as being very much associated with being an adolescent, making it tricky to figure out if your teen's behaviour is a sign they're struggling with the separation or if it's the usual ups and downs of being a teenager. Trust your instincts rather than jumping to conclusions about what is causing the behaviour, and seek professional assistance if you're concerned about your teenager's well-being.

Let your child's school know about the separation or divorce so their teachers are aware. They can look for changes in your teen's behaviour that indicate they might be struggling and suggest support options.

Despite the challenges of separation or divorce, you will get through this with time, find a new normal for your family, and even thrive. One of teenagers' strengths is their ability to adapt to new circumstances. With your love and support, your teen can emerge more robust and resilient from the separation or divorce.

You need to pay attention to your physical and emotional well-being during this stressful time. Reach out to friends for support, look for a support group for parents going through divorce, and speak with a counsellor about how you're feeling. By doing so, you'll be better positioned to support your child while caring for yourself.

Being a parent or carer of teenagers has specific challenges. Please don't feel that you have to do it on your own. As a counsellor specialising in working with parents of tweens and teens, I help parents like you find ways of strengthening their relationship with their adolescent child.

If this has resonated with you, why not get in touch and see how I can help? Contact me via my Counselling Directory profile today to schedule a session.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People constantly rush, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted.

I specialise in supporting parents and carers as they navigate their child's tween and teenage years. Contact me for an introductory chat by phone.

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