How Divorce Affects Children & Teens: Parents Need Realistic Expectations!

How Divorce Affects Children & Teens: Parents Need Realistic Expectations!

Children are affected by divorce

Children are affected by divorce

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

Parenting is always complex. Parenting following a divorce can add many other layers of distraction and confusion to the mix. That makes it even more important for parents to be aware of how their children are responding to the divorce.

Misunderstanding Your Child’s Intentions

One common error parents make is misunderstanding the stage of development their children are at which can lead to unrealistic expectations. Too often parents will assume that their child has a realistic handle on their emotions. They also believe the child has a deeper understanding of human nature than is really possible at their age. So when their child acts out, expresses anger or otherwise misbehaves, many parents misconstrue their intentions.

Parents don’t fully grasp the fear and insecurity that divorce brings up in children. They mistakenly see these young beings as little adults who bring adult reasoning and comprehension to life experiences.

With that mindset, it’s easy to get disappointed when your child’s behavior doesn’t live up to your expectations. Or when they lash out at you for turning their lives upside down.

When divorce enters the family dynamic we often forget that our children are processing their feelings with limited skills and emotional awareness. We all know that divorce can become an enormous challenge for adults. Imagine the ramifications on youngsters – as well as for teens!

Give Your Kids a Break

How unfair (and unrealistic) is it to expect your children to fully understand what Mom and Dad are going through — and then respond with compassion?

Emotional maturity doesn’t fully develop until well into our twenties. Yet divorced parents frequently put the burden on their children to be empathic, understanding and disciplined in their behavior when parents themselves struggle with accessing that level of maturity.

Misunderstanding Our Teens

Parents are often especially misguided in their expectation about teens. By nature, teenagers are very self-absorbed. They don’t yet have the full capacity to put others’ needs ahead of their own. In addition, most teens are not very future focused … nor are they motivated by lectures about consequences.

Part of the parenting process is to role model positive behavior and to demonstrate the advantages of setting goals, planning ahead for the future, etc. Unrealistic parental expectations can lead to needless conflict with our teens. Losing the support from their parents can easily result in a sense of confusion, insecurity, guilt or shame within their fragile psyches.

Why get angry at your teen for not displaying adult maturity at a time when your own maturity may certainly be at question?

By understanding your children’s stages of emotional development as they grow, you are less likely to make the common mistakes parents make when coping with divorce:

  • Confiding adult information your kids can’t psychologically handle
  • Expecting kids to play the role of your mediator, therapist, or parent
  • Asking your child to take sides and reject their other parent
  • Turning your kids into your personal messenger or spy

As a parent, make sure you have reasonable expectations for your children. Don’t be disappointed when your child behaves as the child they still are!

Co-Parenting Guidebook Supports Parents

For information about how divorce affects children at different ages, how to skillfully communicate with your former spouse after divorce, successful co-parenting strategies and more – check out my digital guidebook: Parenting Beyond Divorce – Making Life Better For Your & Your Children. Learn more at:

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is also author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, free articles, Coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to:

© Rosalind Sedacca  All rights reserved.


Divorced Parents Guide to Co-Parenting Harmoniously With Your Ex

Divorced Parents Guide to Co-Parenting Harmoniously With Your Ex

Divorce and break-ups are a difficult life change for anyone. Feelings are hurt, reputations damaged; you have to decide who gets to keep the vintage teapot you found at the flea market that one time. What if you and your Ex have children? How do you keep the negative after shock from affecting your children? Can you really put it all aside and learn to parent together but separately? Co-parenting is hard but it can be done; just keep the following in mind.

Coming to Terms

Put your personal feelings in the past — and keep them there. Maybe he cheated on you, maybe she just wanted out. It does not matter anymore. Whether you split on good terms or you both left kicking and screaming, those emotions need to be locked in the past and only brought out when appropriate — like two a.m. when you just need to cry into your ice cream. Give yourself time to grieve, remembering to keep your feelings to yourself and other adults. Your children do not need to be privy to your feelings on this matter. Come to terms with the split and move on. The love you have for your children should ALWAYS outweigh the distaste you have for your Ex. It can be tempting to speak negatively about your Ex in front of the children, but do not!

Be Honest

Try to remember that there are two sides to every story. You can choose to throw yourself a pity party or you can admit that both of you had a part in the making and breaking of your relationship. Keep everything in perspective and do not let grudges turn your logic into an irrational mess. Remember that your Ex will more than likely move on some day and your children will gain a step-parent. This does not mean you are being replaced, simply that you will have to learn to be a mature adult and realize that this new person just wants to help. You can either accept or deny such help, but know that being vindictive and petty will not help you in the long run.

Keep it Simple

Set clear boundaries early on. Feelings and intentions can be unclear throughout the various stages of an ending relationship. Both of you need to discuss what behavior is acceptable or not. Make it very clear that although you are not partners in life anymore, you are still connected through your children — and that is all.

Keep communication strictly about the children. You do not need to update your Ex about new significant others or what you did in Pilates class today. Check yourself; if what you are about to say does not directly pertain to the children, do not say it.

Stay Calm

Pick your battles. Is the world really going to end if your Ex forgot your daughter’s ballet shoes at his house? It is absolutely imperative that you not let the little things get to you. Getting angry and starting arguments over little things that are easily forgiven will do nothing but breed mistrust and resentment.

Limit courtroom drama. Learn to discuss important things and come to decisions regarding the children together and amicably. The less time you spend hashing out every difference in court is more time you can spend working on your family. Remember that your children are going through a life change too and they need both of their parents’ support — not hostility.

Letting negativity go and moving forward is a difficult thing to do but with these tips, co-parenting with your Ex and keeping things civil will become easier with time.

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Kyle Crawford writes about parenting, family finance & saving money.

Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, relationship seminar facilitator and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right!, coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit

All rights reserved. © Rosalind Sedacca