Archive for February, 2012
By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Many divorcing parents put all their attention on helping their younger children cope while assuming their teenager will understand and adapt. Unfortunately studies have shown that in many cases teens will deal with divorce in more self-destructive and dangerous ways than younger children. Don’t be misled by their seeming independence and self-sufficiency. Often, behind that mask lie deep insecurity, anxiety, mistrust and fear.
Typically teens fall into one of two areas of concern – internalizing and isolation or acting out and aggression. Some teens turn inward, hardly talk to you, lose interest in school, start exploring drug or alcohol use and demonstrate a detached, “whatever” type of attitude.
Others start getting defensive, develop angry outbursts, curse and talk back. Pushing you away and “leave me alone” responses or physical reactions such as punching walls or throwing objects can create great tension and fear in the home.
These children need and are craving more attention as well as structure and supervision in their lives. They see the chaos of the divorce as an excuse to express their frustration and repressed anger. How you respond will play a big part in creating more positive outcomes.
Here are four important steps you can take to bring your family closer together during these challenges times:
1. Maintain family routines. Try as much as possible to keep up with school, sports, clubs, curfews and other routines that were part of your teen’s life. Having meals and other experiences together helps to cement the bond that we are still a family and care about one another.
2. Reinforce your love. Remind your teen, just like your younger children, that the divorce is in no way their fault or responsibility. Tell them how much you love and value them and that you will always be there for them. Teens are often embarrassed to talk about their feelings. Open the door to conversations and when your teen does talk, be sure to listen rather than lecture.
3. Be a true role model. When you respond thoughtfully rather than react emotionally to a challenge you are modeling healthy ways to handle tough situations. This is valuable for your own well-being and demonstrates positive ways of processing your feelings. Above all, never bad-mouth their other parent or confide adult content to your teen. The results are always destructive.
4. Create positive new experiences. Encourage your teen’s friends to come over for pizza and video nights. Redecorate a room together. Adopt a new pet or take a mini vacation together to a family fun spot you haven’t visited before. This sets the stage for new beginnings and happy memories post-divorce as your family starts a new chapter in their lives.
Never underestimate the impact of divorce on your children – especially your more independent teens. Behind their reassurance might be a deep well of untapped confusion and pain. Be there … watch … listen … and observe your teen while modeling the best behavior you can. Divorce is never easy. But it can be a positive life lesson for everyone in the family when handled from that perspective. The more responsibly you behave, the easier it will be for your teen to adapt to the changes and challenges of your divorce.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a divorce and relationship coach and author of the internationally-acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! The book provides fill-in-the-blank templates for customizing a personal family storybook that guides children through this difficult transition with optimum results. For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, other articles on child-centered divorce or to subscribe to her free ezine, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.
Celebrity divorces have become so prevalent many of us shrug our shoulders when the word gets out. It’s hard to be surprised by the news. Their fast-track life makes long-term relationship success challenging at best. When you combine god-like beauty with adoring fans, abundant sexual temptations, crazy travel schedules, “rock-star” pampering, constant media attention, boundless wealth and a life lived in front of cameras, there’s little wonder that marriage fail at such a high rate.
Sadly a high percentage of those celebrities are also parents. That means their children are subjected to the fear, anxiety, depression and other negative consequences of divorce. This is when celebrities are faced with the same question as every other divorced parent: how can I best safeguard my children?
When Heidi Klum and Seal announced their divorce, Seal addressed the issue in an interview with Billy Bush. With four children – two daughters aged 7 and 2 and two sons, aged 6 and 5 — his comments showed a real understanding of key issues that can affect their well-being. When asked how they told the children and what they know, Seal said, “Just explained to them that things will be different, you know, without going into too much detail. But a lot of things won’t change.”
Focusing attention on how some parts of life will be changing while others will stay the same is a good way to approach the subject with children. It reminds them that life will go on – much of it the same as always. In my book, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? I also suggest parents talk about change as a normal part of life – something not to be feared. We change hair styles, grades in school, clothing styles, sports and other activities as we grow. Diffusing the fear of change and new experiences is helpful for kids when facing their parents’ divorce.
“The main thing,” Seal continued, “is to make sure that they feel that they’re loved, make sure that they understand that their parents love each other, make sure that they understand if there are any changes, it has absolutely nothing to do with them.”
This too, was a wise message to share with their children. In fact, listed in How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? are Six Key Messages Every Child Needs to Hear. Seal covered two of them:
1) The divorce is not your fault
2) You are and always will be loved.
The other four messages include:
3) Mom and Dad will always be your parents.
4) You are, and will continue to be, safe.
5) This is about change, not about blame.
6) Things will work out okay.
Of course, it is essential that both parents live up to these messages and learn how to co-parent their children responsibly and maturely. If they don’t, the emotional and psychological hurt for the children can last a lifetime.
Seal stressed that as a couple their kids’ welfare “will always come first.” If they step up and achieve that goal, their children will indeed be fortunate. One move in the right direction is Seal’s intention to maintain a home base in Los Angeles so he can stay close to his children when he’s not traveling overseas.
Many studies have shown that it isn’t divorce per se that damages children. It’s how parents approach the divorce and the stability they provide for their children in the years ahead. Here’s hoping Klum and Seal take that to heart. If they become role models for celebrity divorces their children will reap the benefits of divorce done right!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the internationally acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! Her free ebook for parents – Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right, along with other valuable resources can be found at: www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.