Divorce is one of the most stressful events a family will ever go through. Part of what makes it so difficult is the fact that unlike many other stressors, the effects are prolonged – and unpredictable. In addition, it impacts everyone—child and parent alike—in varying ways and and to various degrees.

For teenagers caught up in the web of divorce, it’s quite emotional, and in a myriad of ways. For instance, sometimes the teen experiences a parental abandonment, as the adults become tangled in negotiating the distressing and rocky path of property settlement and custody/access issues. I often use the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle in a counseling session with a teen patient; when parent’s divorce the family puzzle is thrown into the air. Pieces are flying everywhere, and it’s difficult to make sense of where they will fall. The “old picture of the family” has disappeared, and in time, a new one will form as each piece falls into place. This can take time. In the meantime, it’s quite normal to feel confused, sad, or angry. Some teens even feel a tinge of excitement at the prospect of having two bedrooms and twice as much stuff!

As an adult, a divorce represents a challenge—a need to confront the future constructively, at a time when you are feeling lost. For some teenagers, the world as they know it vanishes in one fell swoop. It can be undoing for some. Combine this with the fact that the teenage brain continues to undergo major changes called “neural pruning” that’s required for them to develop abstract reasoning and understanding. They are confused by the world around them and the world within. It’s no wonder that you can end up with a scared, confused or angry kid…Read more