Divorce As A Growth Process
The Teens Guide To Divorce
by Rayna Lumbard, LMFT, MHT
From disbelief to belief in myself
From confusion to clarity
From rejection to redemption
From anger to self-empowerment
From problems to creative solutions
From victim to victorious
From blame to acceptance
A new life with opportunities for success, love, happiness, and inner strength!
Divorce could be a four-letter word. After all, it is a very difficult adjustment for each member of the family. It is an upsetting time in anyone's life, an especially unwanted or unplanned transition for children and teens whose healthy development is on the line. Adolescence is a stage of life already filled with many emotional and physical changes. Divorce creates an additional burden on growing minds and bodies
In psychosocial development according to Erik Erikson, adolescence is a particularly vulnerable stage in a person's life cycle. Its own crisis is called Identity vs. Role Confusion and usually lasts between puberty and young adulthood. This stage becomes even more difficult for adolescents who are struggling with their parents' divorce. Their reactions include anger (and underlying fear and sadness), the need for a stable home environment, and clear boundaries between themselves and their parents.
Family conflict leading to divorce threatens the very security adolescents depend on to prepare them to leave home and separate from their parents. They react in two different ways; they either cannot grow up and leave home in order to take care of their parents in some way or they have to grow up too quickly to fill the void left by one of their parents. Both reactions interfere with the teen's ability to successfully develop their own sense of identity and appropriate maturation. Either role becomes restrictive to the teen's development.
Because there are more demands placed on teens during the separation and divorce process, peer relationships can suffer just when they are needed the most. Adolescents react to these competing demands in three ways:
1. Teenagers regress and appear younger in their interests, attitudes, and behavior. They become more socially isolated from peers by becoming more emotionally invested in their family, remaining more like a child.
2. Adolescents appear much older and more mature than they really are.
They seem very responsible and stable, becoming a new "adult" resource for
3. Adolescents act out their resentments through rebellious or antisocial
behavior. Their conflict with parental authority is their desperate attempt to separate from their parents when they are feeling trapped.
According to Keshet and Mirkin, there are three reasons for these behaviors.
Adolescents feel personally responsible for the divorce and are doing everything they can to bring their parents back together.
They are trying to replace the parent who left the house and lift their burdens.
Adolescents, knowingly or not, are trying to protect their parents by becoming the focus of attention and causing problems themselves.
What can be done to alleviate the individual and family dysfunction and pain caused by divorce? Timely intervention by a family therapist is the best way to hopefully prevent or at least reduce the problems adolescents experience when their parents get divorced.
It's important for parents to pay attention to how their teenager is handling the situation and be available to discuss what's going on in a constructive way. Remember, they still need their caring, concerned parents. It's important to find other adults to lean on emotionally and to handle other responsibilities to take the burden off teenagers.
It's important for everyone to practice positive self-talk. Self-blame and self-rejection is common in divorce situations. How many times have you caught yourself saying, "I am such an idiot," or "If only I would have ____________." It takes self-awareness to discover what you are telling yourself over and over. If it's "I'm bad, I'm unlovable, or I don't deserve love…" that's what you will create. Practicing self-acceptance reverses self-rejection and low self-esteem. Cancel negative thoughts immediately and replace them with self-affirming ones like "I'm OK, I'm a good person, and I do deserve love…" Become aware of the qualities, skills, gifts and talents you have and appreciate yourself! Accept your uniqueness and learn to receive compliments.
Before, during or after a divorce is a trying time for all family members. Preventing a family crisis, individual emotional problems and destructive acting out behaviors is worth its weight in gold. But if problems persist, it's best to get the support needed to resolve issues. This will give everyone in the family a better chance to develop healthier, happier and more successful relationships and lives in the future.
Rayna Lumbard, LMFT is a gifted Marriage and Family Therapist, Master Hypnotherapist, Psychospiritual Energy and Sound Healer. She facilitates powerful transformations for individuals and couples in her therapy ~ healing practice, InnerSuccess Transformations. She is also the author of “Empowering Your Divine Life Purpose,” the lead chapter in the new book Authentic Alignment. Rayna has positively inspiring ways of actualizing your unique vision and life purpose into action to create the love, joy, bliss, and balance to accomplish your dream life.