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Separating with older children: Giving them the support they need

When you separate and divorce but have older children, it can be difficult to know exactly how to handle the situation. Older children have more independence, but that can also come across as trying to control the outcome of a situation they truly have no control over.

It's a good idea to approach a separation or divorce involving older children carefully. It's easy to alienate older children who may get fed up with the way their parents are acting or with the changes they don't want to go through. Older children can be more stubborn, although they also have the propensity to be more understanding.

Maturity and teens: Be prepared for the unexpected

There is a myth that older children handle divorces better, are more mature and more likely to understand where their parents are coming from. The trouble with the myth isn't that it's untrue in all situations but that it paints all teenagers as matured to the point of adulthood. The reality is that teens are still their parents' children, and they are affected by divorces as much as they would be at a younger age, if not more.

A divorce during your child's teen years could threaten your child's sense of self, which means that your child could lash out. For example, your teenage child may not be sure how to address you or your ex-spouse because of the divorce. That could lead to a loss of the sense of where they belong. If you and your ex-spouse have different ideals or rules, they may be unsure of their own.

What can you do to help your teen through divorce?

The best thing you can do is to remember that teens need support and should not be relied upon as a confidant. Your teenager isn't there to listen to you grieve or to be a shoulder to cry on. While you may be losing your marriage, they're losing the only family order they've ever known. It's difficult to imagine learning new routines and habits, especially when a teenager is so close to adulthood.

For your teen's benefit, it's best if you and your ex-spouse can work out a peaceful solution to the divorce and be candid about what to expect in the months and years to come. By setting new boundaries and enforcing the current family order, you can help them understand their place and support their need for structure and affection.

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