Gay & Lesbian Services of Western New York

Teens and Divorce

A 14 year old male asks, “I think that my parents are going to split up. Is this my fault and can I stop it from happening?”

THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT and no, you cannot stop it from happening as this is about your parents’ relationship over which you have no responsibility or control.

Separation and divorce are terrible traumatic events in family life that affect everyone in or close to the family. [If your parents are gay or lesbian they can’t divorce because they cannot marry. But, if they break up your feelings may be the same as those of teens whose heterosexual parents divorce. The information will pertain to you.] The worst or most vulnerable time usually is just before, during and for a year or more post divorce. Parents mistakenly believe that teens can better handle separation and divorce better than younger children. The truth is there is no good time for bad news! Normal adolescent drives for individuation and independence are threatened by divorce. Parents are usually consumed by their own problems during this time and may be perceived or really be emotionally and even physically unavailable and teens may be or feel neglected. Fears about what sorts of changes this will bring about for the family prey upon the minds of everyone.

Separation and divorce can produce very difficult feelings to deal with for teens. Most experience a profound sense of loss and anger even if the split is not really a surprise due to very conflicted parental relationship behavior. Conflicts in loyalty toward one or both parents, lowered performance at school, moodiness, fears about an unknown and unpredictable future all can bear down during this time and consume your thoughts and energy. You can feel lonely, depressed and isolated.

Unfortunately more than 50% to 75% of children in the United States will experience the separation and divorce of their parents. And, as 50% to 75% of these parents remarry and these second marriages are even more prone to divorce it is likely that many teens will go through a second divorce with their step families.

There are some things you can do to help yourself during this turbulent time to ease the pain for yourself. Please believe that this is not your fault; you are neither the cause nor the solution. Accept that this will be an uncertain and sometimes turbulent time and do your best to keep your focus on the tasks in front of you like going to school, doing as well as you can academically and socially. Talk about what is happening with your friends, chances are they or someone they know is in the same boat. Seek out the school guidance counselor or ask to see a therapist if you are having a difficult time coping. There is nothing to be embarrassed about as this is a very difficult time and people understand that. Let each parent know that it is your hope that you can remain in the same neighborhood, same school and even the same house if possible. Remember that your parents are hurt, angry and confused during this time with themselves and each other and they may be more impatient, more easily irritated or just distracted. Try not to take this personally as it goes with the territory of what is going on and it is not about you, even when it does effect you. Sometimes in particular it will be hard to believe but the intensity of this period will subside and ease up eventually. Let yourself mourn and be sad about the changes that are happening within your family so that you can adjust to the changes that will occur as the family and you move through this process.

If your gay or lesbian parents break up and you can’t talk to the people suggested in the above paragraph, you may need to find alternative sources of support.

Consider:

Getting in touch with the WNY chapter of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE) at www.clearahead.com/colage.nsf
Contacting Trinity Church Outreach Coordinator, Holly Maloney at 852-8314
Calling GLYS (855.0221); emailing me at this website or the GLYS Executive Director (Marvin L. Henchbarger at glyswny@gmail.com) to see what other group/person might be helpful.

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