Teens, divorce and the single mom

I am surprised to find so much advice on Single Parenting, support groups and new dating opportunities etc. but very little focus on the Children or Teenagers becoming the casualties of divorce. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable because they have spent more time with their Dads (than younger children) and therefore they will feel it more. Teenagers also like to hero-worship their fathers and as a result they feel hugely betrayed.

As one young man put it, he told his Dad “You don’t have to move out just because you and Mom don’t get along, you can share my room with me Dad.”

When he found out his Dad wanted to leave them for another woman he said. “If you leave one woman for another, I think I can understand but why do you have to leave your whole family as though none of us matter?”

Going through this traumatic time is more than difficult – it becomes complex and confusing. The sudden absence of a Fatherfigure is further complicated if the father becomes more and more distant – if he has started a new relationship elsewhere.

Fathers often become disinterested and detached from their children. As a teenager you may feel you are not worthy of his affection. This leaves the children feeling they were not good enough. “If my dad loved me he would not…………..” a constant self-condemnation.

Loneliness is only one part of the feelings which carries a ton of hurt. Maybe you had a special camaraderie with your dad. Perhaps you saw him as your best friend. Suddenly your dad is gone and so is your best friend.

The financial implications also play a huge role as dad (if he re-marries) will have two families to support and money becomes tight. If he should become jobless, that situation might not recover soon enough. The single mom has to learn very quickly how to budget the available finances and teenagers especially feel the pinch when certain things they feel entitled to cannot materialize.

The frustrations of feeling lonely and rejected are compounded by the financial implications which often results in some of the following:-

Antisocial behaviour

Anger

Anxiety

Aggression

Self-pity

Too much responsibility (where younger siblings are involved).

Teenagers are expected to deal with the effects of divorce as well as adults are expected to deal with it, but in truth, even adults don’t cope – although they have more resources such as support groups.

Should the single mother start dating again, teenagers are likely to balk at this and see every new date as a threat to them, someone that may take their mom from them also.

Should the mom re-marry, they tend to expect more from the step-father than they may have expected from their natural Father. This causes more problems as Teens may try and push their boundaries in this new situation.

If you are the casualty of divorce, here are some things you can do.

  • Ask for an open discussion with both parents where you can ask the questions you need answers for and explain frankly how you feel.
  • Make sure you understand that the Divorce is not about you at all.
  • Ask your Father if he is likely to start treating you differently or if you will still have some form of acceptable relationship with him excluding any future family he may marry into.
  • Ask about the divorce settlement and make sure you understand the financial implications. Discus it with your mom before she signs the divorce papers. If necessary, insist that she gets a good lawyer before signing.
  • Accept that divorce is a reality and that you have not been singled out to live through this tragedy. Life goes on and your life is the one that matters. Start by standing with your mom – she will be going through more than you. She has lost a husband, her lover, a friend, the father of her children and her financial support. Her loss is devastating in each area whereas yours is the loss of your Father and possibly a friend.
  • Don’t let this void swallow you in. You will be able to fill this void if you focus on your own life, your schooling, sport or hobbies, and if you need extra cash, see what income you can generate elsewhere. Many of the teens I know are starting up online businesses, work in shops or restaurants on a part-time / Holiday basis.
  • Surround yourself with good friends and keep an eye out for your mom. She needs as much TLC (Tender Loving Care) as you do. Be kind to each other and don’t blame her for every little thing. Divorce is a complicated issue and nobody wins. Keep your sanity and stay focused on your life and your future as best you can.
  • If you have younger siblings, remember that they too will be hurting and perhaps looking to you for leadership and good guidance. This can be a huge burden and you could easily become overwhelmed. If you cannot cope, do not try and do it on your own. Call another meeting with both your parents. They may not know how much you are suffering and why. Going forward, at least you will still be able to talk to both of them when necessary.

 

Faithfully your friend

Thandi

Divorce – A teenager’s struggle

By Tyler Mc Cann – Durban Youth Leader

When I was a young teenager of 14 my parents got divorced. This made me very angry, aggressive and I kept all my emotions bottled up without realizing it. This didn’t help the fact that I was going through my teenage years with already pent up emotions. I took no joy in the things around me, and looking back, I made a huge mistake. What I didn’t realize was that my unhappiness and anger that I directed to everyone around me was from my own doing. As I matured I realized that I was not alone. Divorce affects hundreds of thousands of teenagers, not only in South Africa but throughout the world.

Because of all this anger, I failed to see that the divorce was affecting my whole family emotionally, not just me, and I was adding to their pain. It was really a very tough period in my life. I felt very alone, even though I was surrounded by family and friends. I hated school, stopped playing sports, my grades suffered, and all I wanted was to be left alone, even though I felt so alone.

As I grew older I realized that I was wrong, and I started making an effort to calm down and began opening up a little. My confidence slowly came back and I started to smile and laugh again. I began going out with friends and slowly but surely began breaking down the wall that I had created around myself, with the help of those who I had just a few years previously shut out.

Thinking back I could have saved myself a lot of pain and heart ache if I had just talked to the people around me about my feelings. Those lost teenage years I can never get back, but I have become a stronger, more confident adult thanks to the lessons I learnt.

If you are going through a similar situation in your home, don’t close yourself off, be open about your feelings, never beat yourself up, rather sit down and talk about it with family members or trusted friends. There are always people who care and will listen. If only I had realized that.