Divorce and Teenagers | A Guest Post on Mary Gottschalk’s Blog

Image: ImageToArt
Image: ImageToArt

Today I’m visiting with Mary Gottschalk on her blog with an essay I wrote on the topic of adolescents and divorce and how that combination impacts a family. My essay dovetails with a novel-in-progress Mary is working on where just such a situation is making life difficult for a mother and her 13-year old daughter. I do hope you will come and visit Mary’s blog and join in the discussion.

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Divorce and teens don’t mix well.

Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., a psychologist in Austin, TX, wrote in an article published in Psychology Today in 2009:

Because the adolescent is at a more disaffected and rebellious stage with parents, divorce can intensifies [sic] their grievances. Rather than cling, the adolescent tends to pull away. Adolescents often feel betrayed by the broken parental commitment to family and become angrier and less communicative. (Emphasis mine.)

I know from experience that something changes during adolescence, creating a resurgence of memories from childhood layered onto the present.

I saw this with my stepdaughter, who was almost six when her parents divorced. By the time Leah (not her real name) reached adolescence, her life experiences included (1) learning she was adopted, (2) seeing her adoptive parents divorce, and (3) watching daddy remarry.

In her memory bank, each of these events directly linked to a woman who had let her down – her birth mother, her adoptive mother, and me. Leah’s adolescent rage centered on a distrust of women.

Leah’s solution: Bring Mom and Dad back together again and all will be right with the world. How to make this happen? Destroy Dad’s new marriage.

Around 15, Leah convinced us her life at home with Mom and Mom’s boyfriends was miserable, and she needed stability. We believed her every word.

Read more here . . . 

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On tap for tomorrow, a post on memory triggers. I think you’ll find it interesting, and I’m looking forward to your comments adding to the list!

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16 thoughts on “Divorce and Teenagers | A Guest Post on Mary Gottschalk’s Blog

  1. Hello,It is a very useful blog.Divorce is unlike annulment which declares the marriage null and void. Divorce laws vary considerably around the world, but in most countries it requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process.

    1. Thanks for stopping in to comment. Yes, annulment breaks the ties of a marriage and usually there are no children since most annulments happen rather quickly. Divorce, however, and especially with children, maintains that familial relationship whether it’s desired or not. It’s something we have to keep in place for our children.

    2. Thanks for stopping by … I discovered the variety of divorce laws when my ex and I decided to split up while we were in New Zealand as part of a 3-year cruise. Since we didn’t live there and given up our New York State residency, we couldn’t get a divorce either place. We had to wait until one of us re-established residency.

  2. Great post. So often when parents are going through a divorce they go through a period of a very narrow view point that does not include what their children are going through. They expect the children, especially teenagers, to understand by osmosis. I know because when I divorced years ago I did not take action until I saw the look on my teen daughter’s face. And that told me everything I needed to know. I was failing to help her adjust to our new way of being without her father. It was difficult but we got throught it.

    1. Karen, thank you for stopping in and commenting. I am pleased to read that you and your daughter made it through your divorce and that you were wise enough to recognize, even if late, the needs of your daughter. It is too easy to be self-centered when we are hurting and struggling emotionally ourselves.

    2. Karen … this is exactly the problem my protagonist in my novel is dealing with … she assumes her adaptable and cheerful daughter will cope, and is shocked when she discovers what she failed to observe.

  3. The situation you outlined is heart breaking. And the right thing to do is exactly what you did. I am aware that teens suffer the most during a divorce. My parents divorced after I was married. My grandmother encouraged me to try and get them reunited but I knew the divorce for best for everyone and long overdue

    1. Sue, you were a wise young woman to not get involved in the emotional turmoil that is separation and divorce. Obviously, you were aware of the problems there based on your words “I knew the divorce for best for everyone and long overdue.” Yes, very wise to step away.

  4. We have two sets of friends, each with teenagers and friends of our sons, that are going through divorces and, although I can see that the adults will be much happier in the long run, I hate to see the effect it’s having on their kids.

    1. I empathize with your friends and their teens. No matter the reason for the divorce, the kids are the ones who stand to experience the greater impact. Seeing it first-hand with your own children is very painful. I’m happy to say we all came out the other end, and we’re here to tell our stories. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Teri.

    2. Teri … a belated thanks for your comments … it is so hard to watch kids during a divorce, particularly if the parents use the kids as pawns to punish each other. It happens all too often.

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