Blog by Carly Hope, solicitor
Separation is difficult for the whole family to deal with, particularly teenagers. If you are parents of teenagers you will know it can be hard to talk to them at the best of times, but when their parents are separating, it can be even more challenging.
As we begin the countdown to the GCSE and A Level exam season, most teenagers will be feeling pressure from all angles, and it is important to ensure they feel safe, understood and calm.
A new play ‘The Son’ that opened in London recently, explores the story of a teenage boy who is struggling to deal with his parents’ divorce. He is depressed, feels he is not listened to and is about to be expelled from school. The play raises some important issues for parents and urges them to consider what their children may be experiencing.
Silk Family Law encourage parents to make their children’s interests a priority when separating. Here are our top five tips for helping teenagers through the forthcoming exam season when they are also dealing with their parents’ separation.
- Encourage your child to have a good relationship with both parents. Teenagers may be angry towards you both when they are divorcing, and you should avoid blaming each other in front of your child. Make sure you allow your child to feel they can love both of you without worrying they are taking sides.
- Be available for your teenager; listen when they ask to talk to you and encourage them to talk openly about their feelings about everything going on in their life. If they cannot speak to you, encourage them to talk to a grandparent or teacher if this is more comfortable for them.
- Ensure the arrangements for where your teenager will live – and when they spend time with the other parent – are agreed and clear to everyone. Teenagers will value stability and routine during a stressful time such as exams, therefore these arrangements should not change. However, when exams start it may be sensible to drop a mid-week visit to the other parent, but you should discuss this with your teenage son or daughter and not make arrangements without involving them.
- Make sure your teenager has their own space in both parents’ homes. If this is not possible, try to provide a quiet area to allow them to study and make sure they have suitable equipment and books.
- Seek expert support or advice if you are concerned about how your teenager is coping with divorce – this is particularly important if you are worried about their mental or physical wellbeing. At Silk Family law we can help parents find therapists and counsellors for either the whole family, or for individuals.
There are some useful online resources for both young people and parents. Here are a selection:
Resolution, the organisation representing 6,500 family law professionals, has useful information ranging from how to cope with the emotional side of parenting post-divorce, to practical tips on parenting apart. See http://www.resolution.org.uk/divorceandparenting/
CAFCASS, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, also offer an online parenting plan, which may assist parents in formulating and collating their agreed arrangements in writing. There is also lots of useful advice on the website https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parenting-plan.aspx
Relationship charity Relate offers counselling just for children and young people http://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-children-and-young-people/children-and-young-peoples-counselling
Voices in the Middle is a website run by young people who have been affected by divorce – resources include powerful case studies and videos http://voicesinthemiddle.org.uk
Mental health charity Young Minds has resources for both parents and children http://www.youngminds.org.uk/for_parents/worried_about_your_child/divorce_separation
If you have an questions raised by Carly’s blog, or any query about separation or divorce, you can ‘phone her on 0191 495 7189 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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