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.

It is particularly difficult for young people at present as their routines have been disrupted; they are learning from home, they are unable to go out with their friends or see extended family and everything they are experiencing may feel even more difficult by being in such close proximity of parents who are separating and not getting along. During this current lockdown period, most teenagers will be feeling pressure from all angles, and it is important to ensure they feel safe, understood and calm.

I always encourage parents to make their children’s interests a priority when separating. Here are my top five tips for helping teenagers through this current time when they are also dealing with their parents’ separation.

5 tips for helping teenagers deal with divorcing parents

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Ensure the arrangements for where your teenager will live – and when they spend time with the other parent – are agreed and clear to everyone. Children of separated parents are permitted to move between the two homes during lockdown. Teenagers will value stability and routine during a stressful time such as the pandemic and your separation, therefore these arrangements should not change. However, if your child is completing any assessments whilst learning from home, it may be sensible to consider ensuring extra stability in routine to assist your son or daughter in studying and working to the very best of their ability. Any proposed change in living arrangements should always be discussed with the other parent, as well as your teenage son or daughter; and you should not make arrangements without involving them and seeking their agreement.
  1. 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. Home schooling can be incredibly difficult especially when parents are working at home too, but do try to engage with them, encourage participation in online classes and discuss what they are working on.
  2. Seek expert support or advice if you are concerned about how your teenager is coping with your separation. 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. Mediation can also help parents who sometimes feel at odds with each other when it comes to trying to agree what is the best living arrangement for their children, by encouraging dialogue in a calm and neutral environment.

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

Relate, the relationship charity, 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

Young Minds mental health charity has resources for both parents and children http://www.youngminds.org.uk/for_parents/worried_about_your_child/divorce_separation

If you have any questions raised by my blog, or any query about separation or divorce, you can contact me on 0191 495 7189, 07912 228906 or email me at carly.hope@silkfamilylaw.co.uk

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Header image credit: Jesús Rodríguez on Unsplash