Keeping your teenage kids in your life after divorce

Having teenagers in the family is always going to be stressful and challenging.  Getting divorced as well is going to add to that.  Divorced parents who are not living with their children often struggle to maintain a good relationship with their teenagers.

We all know that the whole point of being a teenager is to assert your independence by rebelling regardless of whether or not your parents are happily married, unhappily married or divorced.  This process is made more difficult if the teenager feels he or she needs to or should pick a side with feuding parents.  They will tend to side with the parent they are living with - often the mother - and that can increase the emotional distance from their father as well.

alienated teenagersThe alternative is for them to try to take a position in the ambiguous middle; this can be confusing and painful.  Teenagers may blame the divorce on the parent who they think was in the wrong which makes holding the middle position even harder.

Creating a Balance
Getting it right for either parent is a case of trying to balance these conflicting emotional currents  Your children are in the midst of trying to prove that they are not children and they need the love and support of both parents but the don't want to be crowded.

Let them know that you are with them just like you always were before the divorce.  Try to keep that balance, that continuity.  Always remember important dates like birthdays, holidays, big exams, and key events at school.  Call and text your children regularly. 

Suggest that you spend time together but don't force the issue.  It may be frustrating to make an effort which often yields little positive response, but keep doing it.  Eventually they will recognise your love and concern for them.

Long-term Hope
At times you may feel depressed about all this and want to give up and walk away.  This is a perfectly natural reaction.  However, remember that despite the rejected Sunday lunch invitations and sighs of annoyance, deep down your children do still care for you.  Keep them in your new life after divorce.

They would be disappointed if you stopped behaving like their parent. The great benefit is that if you can stick by your children during their teenage years it is likely that they will begin to see you in a new light once they enter young adulthood.  Their perspectives will change and a new and satisfying relationship can then develop from there.  This is the prize and even in the dark days keep sight of it and don't give up on your kids.  They need you.

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