Teens and Divorce: The Perfect Match?

It’s easy to think of our children – even our teens – as vulnerable and at risk from the effects of divorce. Teenagers may be older and more “worldly wise” (or so they like to think) but they are still children and at the stage where they are forming a strong sense of identity.

Will divorce hamper this important process? Not necessarily, according to a study by sociologist Chris Manning.

It suggests that rather than falling victim to divorce, teens can (and very often do) manipulate the situation to their advantage. That is, that divorce presents many opportunities for teens to not only establish but assert their identity, and gain a new found and somewhat unexpected sense of authority.

Teens of divorce do this in many ways, including:

Controlling the flow of information. Communication between divorced parents is usually pretty poor. Teens can give or withhold information – whichever suits them best – without worrying that parents are comparing notes.

Changing their minds about where they want to live. When parents divorce, teens often choose (no surprise) to live with the least authoritative parent. They can also move, or threaten to move, to the other parent’s home if they don’t get their way.

Refusing contact with a parent. By doing so, teens can set favorable terms and conditions that must be met before they will agee to see the other parent.

The clear message here is that divorcing parents really do need to be on the same page – and communicating – about their children. Teenage children my not “suffer” as much as we th-nk during divorce, but nor should theybe learning that manipulative behavior is a good thing.

Posted in: Effects of Divorce on Children

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