Help for Adolescents of Divorced Parents
The most important help children and adolescents of divorced parents need is to live in a peaceful home atmosphere, in addition to knowing that they did not cause the divorce of their parents, they are not responsible for getting them back together, and both parents will continue to love them. It is extremely critical for adolescents to receive professional help to deal with their parents' divorce in order to prevent substance abuse, behavior disorders, anxiety disorder, and depression.
Many adolescents were brought to my office for therapy because of their extreme anger outbursts, violence, defiance, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, self-injuries, or suicidal ideation. And most of the time I found out that these children lived in a hostile home atmosphere. Their parents were going through a divorce or that there was a bitter divorce process, or that the post divorce situation was still very volatile.
According to Dr. Christelle Roustit of the Research Group on the Social Determinants of Health and Healthcare, and Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris,"What is the most deleterious for the children is the atmosphere in which the separation occurs and the deterioration of the family relational processes and not the separation in itself."
Their research of 2,346 adolescents (13 and 16 years old) and 1,983 parents who participated in the Social and Health Survey of Children and Adolescents in Quebec, Montreal indicated the following findings:
1. Overall, substance abuse, including alcohol, was approximately two-times higher in these adolescents compared with adolescents who were not going through a family breakup. Although seen in both groups, the rate of substance abuse was considerably higher among the 16-year old.
2. Oppositional attitudes and behaviors, such as fighting, damaging property and theft were increased in both age groups. 3. Levels of depression and anxiety also were higher than normal in both age groups. In particular, the risk of suicide attempts was three- to four-times higher among 13 year olds, compared with 16 year olds, Roustit said. These behaviors, however, were modified by parental support.
4. Higher rates of psychological distress reported by parents were linked with adolescent psychological distress as well as the adolescents' acts of defiance, fighting, vandalism, animal cruelty, theft or other violations of the law, but not with adolescent alcohol use or substance abuse.
5. Adolescent psychological distress in both age groups was also strongly associated with witnessing violence between parents.
My advice for parents who are going through divorce process, or who are struggling with marital conflicts is to stop blaming each other and to seek professional help for your self and for your children. A professional counselor or Family Therapist can help you to look at your situation more objectively and to learn new ways to provide support to your adolescent children. Hence you will be empowered to create a safe and nurturing environment for your whole family while going through the process of resolving your marital conflicts. Call Sylvia S. Roan, MSSA, LCSW, LISW-CP at (626) 353-8772 to schedule an appointment to get help for your teens and your self.