We all know teenagers have a tough time making good choices, but one of the toughest things a teenager can endure is a divorce between parents. This is because, for all their tough talk and posturing, teenagers are highly insecure. Insecurity is perhaps the paramount characteristic of the teen years. So, if you and your spouse are contemplating divorce and you have teens at home, pay close attention to the five things you should never say to your teenagers during the divorce process – or afterward.
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#1 Well You’re the One Who Chose to Live with ….
Because teens are usually old enough to weigh in on decisions about where to live after a divorce, many times they will voice their wishes. If you get mad at your teen, avoid making them feel like their living arrangement is their choice. No matter where the teen lives most of the time (with you or your ex), let this be a choice the grown-ups and the court decided. Take that off their plate and never make it seem like they made the choice.
#2 This for That (Quid Pro Quo)
Perhaps one of the worst lessons you can teach a teenager – especially during the early days following a divorce – is that they can get more from you and your ex by playing you against each other. If you promise to give them more time playing video games if they stay with you, they may not actually end up spending more time with you. But they will end up with more video game time in either place.
#3 The Blame Game
Obviously, it’s never a good idea to disparage your ex in front of teens. For one, your divorce decree and parenting agreement likely have something to say about it. But more importantly, it doesn’t really have the effect you expect. Instead of making your teenager dislike your ex, it will just give your teen ammunition to use later on when negotiating with the ex. Teens can be clever negotiators. Divorced spouses will often inadvertently overshare information with their teens, leaving themselves vulnerable to attacks later.
#4 Discussing Money
Never complain to your teenager about money, especially issues surrounding child support and alimony payments. Whether you are the one ordered to pay or the one receiving these payments, it’s a grown-up problem that simply does not and should not concern the kids. By complaining about it, you are telling the teen that they are indeed the source of the fighting or at a minimum the reason dad is broke, or the reason mom hates dad.
#5 Don’t Tell
Lastly, never tell your teenager to keep secrets from your ex. While it can be tempting to see these near-adults as mature peers, they are still children. If you want to confide in your teen, confide about unrelated matters. But asking your child to keep secrets from their other parent is a surefire way to create an unhealthy problem in the future. Ask yourself this: are you okay with your child being taught to lie to you? If not, do not encourage them to lie to their other parent.
Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule. If there is domestic violence involved or an ex with a criminal record of some other major issue that requires you to proceed in a different way, that’s certainly a matter to discuss with an attorney or your family counselor. But in general, you should do everything you can to avoid involving teenagers in these ways. If you need help with a divorce or just need answers about how to deal with post-divorce matters, give the Elliott Frazier Law Firm a call today, and speak with a skilled Greenville divorce lawyer near you.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.