Has your teen has lost someone important or experienced something traumatic?
You might see a change in their attitude, behavior and emotions as the anniversary of the event approaches.
This is normal. We all do this, even if we’ve never noticed before.
One fascinating discovery I've made as an adult has been the impact anniversaries have on me. Certain types of anniversaries have been obvious for a long time. These include my birthday and my parents' wedding anniversary. For me, these have always been happy occasions that I recognize with warm feelings.
I had never thought about the impact of a different type of anniversary before: Bad ones. Hard ones. Traumatic ones.
It took becoming a social worker to help me understand. Working with people who have experienced very difficult or traumatic events helped me realize how much those anniversaries mean. I have them, too. I'd just never realized it before.
The memories of difficult times and events stick with us.
Even your teen.
Believe it or not, they need YOUR help to get through. They need help learning to cope.
Your son or daughter may need extra comfort. They might need help coping with the feelings that hard anniversaries bring up.
Some of the anniversaries to keep in mind include:
What can a parent do to help?
First, figure out a way to remember the date. If it is as significant to you as them, this is simple. Some events might be less obvious and harder for you to remember. For example, the date of an awful break-up, an accident or when you told them about your divorce. Put this date somewhere. Your journal, your calendar, your phone. Anywhere that works for you.
Start paying attention as soon as a month before the event. This will help you will recognize signs of distress and stress in your son or daughter. They might be big and obvious, but they could also be more subtle. To be fair, some teens might actually be fine. Keep an eye out anyway.
Remember that every teen will respond in their own unique way. Here are a few that I’ve seen:
If you begin to notice a change in their demeanor or behavior, check in. It is alright to remind them that a difficult anniversary is approaching. It is possible that they do not know why they feel so “off.” They may also deny that they are being affected by the anniversary. This is alright. Your goal in this moment is to assure them that they can come to you if they ever aren’t okay.
Once your teen is ready to talk, here are a few DOS and DON’TS:
Have you or your teen ever done something to honor a loved one that has died or a difficult event? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below!
Struggling how to help your child with the death of someone significant? Read more here.
Do you remember the first funeral you attended?
I can barely remember mine. I was six when my maternal grandfather died. I remember being there. I also remember not understanding what was happening because I was so young. In some ways, I am thankful that I was little when this occurred. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to confront feelings about his death that I didn’t expect. I had no idea what to do, even as an adult.
Death is hard. It is confusing and devastating for children and for adults, each in their own unique way.
Has your teenager experienced the death of an important person? A family member, friend or mentor? Maybe they have and you’ve already navigated this difficult time with them. Bravo to you. Please tell us how you did it in the comments. I would love to learn from you!
Perhaps this has yet to happen to your child. I wish this is something you could avoid altogether, but we all know better. Where do you start? How do you comfort your child? How do you explain what happened? How do you take care of yourself?
Here are my thoughts about talking to teenagers about death. Teens process tragic events differently than younger children. These suggestions may not be a good match to use with children under the age of 12.
First, if you are the one to break the news to your teen, please don’t rush into this conversation. By all means, don’t delay it. What I’m saying is to take a few minutes to consider the words you want to use. Don’t blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. How would you want to learn about a significant person’s death? That’s a good place to start.
What if your teen learns about a death before you? They may need some time to figure out their emotions before they can explain what happened or talk with you. They could also drop it like a bombshell in your lap. Again, you don’t have to respond immediately. Take a minute to feel your feelings and then go from there.
Some deaths are expected, others are not. An elderly relative’s passing will be different than the death of a classmate or friend. Also, consider how the person died. Death by suicide or accident will feel different than a death after a long illness or in old age.
A question I often use is “Would you like to talk about how _____ died?” If they say no, that is alright. Let your teen know they can always come back to this conversation with you. If they say yes, stick with the facts of the death to start. Use a calm voice and soothing language as much as possible.
Once you’ve talked about what happened, ask, “How do you feel about this?” Your teen may not know or they might be able to identify lots of feelings already. Either is okay. Remind them that whatever they are feeling is okay and that you’re there to support them.
Have you and your teen talked about death before? Do you or your teen have beliefs about what happens after a person dies? Referencing these conversations and beliefs can be useful, but not always. Ask your teen if they’d like to talk about these topics. Leave room for them to say no. Be prepared for them to say yes. Be sure to be respectful of their beliefs, even if they differ from yours. An argument about life after death is not helpful at this point.
Depending on the nature of the death, there could be media coverage. You’ll want to prepare your child for news coverage and social media posts. I discourage people from looking at these too much. Avoid reading the comments on news stories and public Facebook posts at all costs. Focus on the relationship you and your teen had with the deceased. Look at your own pictures. Recall your fondest memories. Stay away from the internet as much as you can.
Your child may hear about the death from friends, classmates, teachers or strangers. Prepare them for this possibility. Let them know that they are not required to talk about the person or their death with anyone. Your teen can end conversations or tell the person they do not want to talk about the deceased. This can be especially difficult if the death was traumatic and is very public. Help increase your teen’s confidence in setting boundaries. Let them know you have their back and support them if they do not want to talk to others about the death.
If you will be attending a wake, funeral or memorial for the deceased, talk with your teen ahead of time. These events can be daunting, especially if your child has never attended one before. If you know, inform them if there will be an open or closed casket and talk about why people choose to do this. Even if you do not know, assure your teen that they do not have to look at the body if they do not want to.
Explain that different people may be grieving in many ways at the service. They may see people crying, laughing, hugging or being very quiet. Offer them an out if they become overwhelmed. In emotionally-charged situations, my go-to escapes are stepping outside or going to the bathroom.
A graveside service or burial is yet another factor to consider. Talk with your teen about how they feel about going to the grave-site. Leave room for a day-of decision. Remind your teen that they can always visit the grave later if they choose not to go the day of the service.
After the funeral or service, talk with your child about what happens next.
In many ways, life goes back to normal. You go back to your regular routines and schedule.
What doesn’t go back to normal is feelings. It is very important for your child to be able to talk about their grief as much as they need to after a death. They may decide to do this in a journal, in art, or in song. Some teens like to create a memorial item or space to help them remember that person.
Whatever you do, encourage your son or daughter to continue to work through their grief. Remind them that it takes time to grieve and that there is not a right or wrong way to grieve.
Do you need some help through this process? Talking to a counselor can be an invaluable part of the grieving process. Here is a place to start.
Wondering how you deal with anniversaries of death with your teen? Learn more here.
Imagine this: Your kids are going to their other parent’s house for their co-parenting time. You’re happy for them. You are looking forward to some time to yourself.
Do you believe this could ever happen to you?
When you imagine this scenario, what feelings come up for you? Disbelief? Anger? Sadness? Guilt?
Maybe you aren’t there yet.
That is absolutely okay. Co-parenting is hard. Your feelings and needs are valid. Remember, it is important to learn how to cope with your feelings of loneliness and sadness when the kids are with their other parent.
Post-divorce life isn’t easy. You’re allowed to take the time you need to grieve and heal. Know that you will not always feel this bad. Healing will happen.
Perhaps you’ve arrived in a place where your no-kid time is not as difficult.
It is alright to feel good about your kids being with their other parent. You are not required to feel guilty about enjoying time to yourself or with other important people in your life. You having hobbies, friends and fun is such an amazing thing! You feeling fulfilled is good for you and it is good for your family. Kids can tell when their parents are happy. Knowing you are okay gives your children permission to be okay, too. It gives them room to be happy with both parents and in both of their homes.
Know that adjusting to life after divorce is not a race. It will look different for everyone. Your healing and point of view will also look different during the various parts of your journey.
Take your time.
Take care of yourself along the way. Over time, you’ll notice the changes. Eventually, you’ll realize just how much healing you’ve done.
What is your favorite way to spend your downtime when your kids are away? I would love to hear about your favorite me-time activities!
Looking for some encouragement as you navigate the tough world of coparenting? Join the Divorce Proofing Group on Facebook! You'll find a group of divorced parents who get it - because they've been there. Click here to visit the Divorce Proofing group!
If you're a divorced parent of a teenager, you've probably had to face your ex-spouse at your child's parent-teacher conferences, basketball games, band concerts or other school events. If you're newly divorced and haven't experienced this, welcome to the age of co-parenting at extra-curricular events!
For many co-parents, these types of shared events can be nerve-wracking at best and quite miserable at their worst. Even when their children are only in elementary school.
Now, fast-forward to middle school and high school. Your child's life becomes more complex. New challenges arise for parents of teenagers, no matter their marital status.
Two big ones: school dances and learning to drive.
Have you though about how co-parenting works when your child starts to attend school dances? How do you figure out co-parenting when your teen is ready to learn to drive?
These two situations are not simple for moms and dads who are married to their children's other parent. They get even more complex when parents are divorced or separated, and living separately.
You might think... "dances aren't any big deal." Consider this: the age which your child can start attending school dances is often the very beginning of dating, sex, exposure to drinking, drugs and time spent in a casual and (often) poorly supervised environment.
I'm not trying to scare you - really! But I do think dances are important to think about and plan for. Many factors must be considered: transportation, costs, managing risks and, most importantly, your child's safety.
These same factors come up again when your teen is ready to learn to drive. Who will teach your child to drive? What if you and your co-parent do not agree on the timing of driving lessons, costs, and your child having access to a vehicle? Your teen learning to drive is a time that will put your co-parenting skills to a real test!
Driving and school dances are events that many parents do not consider when they are divorcing. Did you? If not, that is alright. Divorce Proofing and Audrey Cade are here to help!
Join us in the Divorce Proofing Facebook Group on Friday 8/25/17 at 2pm Mountain Daylight Time for a Facebook Live interview to discuss co-parenting at school events, school dances and when your teen learns to drive! Divorced parent, author and Divorce Warrior Audrey Cade will share her advice on how to expertly co-parenting during these challenging times.
Audrey Cade, author of Divorce Matters: Help for Hurting Hearts and Why Divorce is Sometimes the Best Decision, is a matriarch of a stepfamily of six children and an experienced "divorce warrior" in the areas of co-parenting, step parenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage. She is a featured blogger for DivorcedMoms, contributor for DivorceForce, Worthy Living and has been published in the Divorce Magazine, The Good Men Project, StepMom Magazine, and others.
We hope you'll join us for this exciting interview - just in time for the beginning of the school year!
Click here to join the Divorce Proofing Group.
The video will be added to this post later in the day on 8/25/17.
What do you do when your kids go to their other parents’ home?
For many divorced parents, the loneliness of those days alone can be suffocating, especially at first.
How can you cope? Here are a few ideas to fill your time and help you heal:
What is your favorite activity to do when you are home alone without your kids?
Drop a comment below and share with us!
Can you imagine a time when you’ll look forward to your off days and weekends?
Come back to visit - my post will be on why it is alright to enjoy your alone time while your kids are with their co-parent!
Need some extra support as you adjust to parenting after divorce? Come join us in the Divorce Proofing Facebook Group!
If you’re a divorced parent, I bet you’ve heard about apps, websites, books and other tools to help you navigate the trials of co-parenting.
With all of the available options, how do you figure out what tool is right for you?
Divorce Proofing has your back! We recently aired a live-stream interview with an expert in co-parenting tools!
Just like you, Katie Bettridge is a single parent. She has spent the last seven years testing tools for co-parenting. She has also created some tools just for single and divorced parents. Listen in to our recent interview to learn more!
Join the Divorce Proofing Group HERE to be sure you don't miss any of our future view live video interviews!
Keep reading to learn more about our speaker, Katie Bettridge.
I love recommending books to my clients. I try to read every book that I recommend before I suggest it. Sometimes, this is challenging as there are SO MANY BOOKS. I want to read them all. (Really.) I love reading and I recommend books left and right, both in my personal life and in my professional world.
The #1 book that I recommend as a therapist is about divorce and co-parenting.
Most of my clients are tweens and teens. Many of them are a part of a divorced family. Helping parents navigate the challenges that come with divorce, co-parenting and blended families is a large part of my practice.
For families in the midst of major changes and grief because of a divorce, I recommend “The Co-Parents’ Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted, Resilient and Resourceful Kids in a Two-Home Family from Little Ones to Young Adults” by Karen Bonnell and Kristin Little.
The title is a mouthful, but this book is the best resource for all aspects of divorce when children are involved.
Here are the three reasons I love this book:
Ready to read the book? A new edition will be available on 8/22/2017. You can pre-order it today! Find it here.
Have you already read it? Let us know what you thought in the comments!
Looking for extra support as you navigate your own divorce and co-parenting experience?
Join us in the Divorce Proofing Facebook Group!
Curious about how your personality may have influenced your divorce?
In the Divorce Proofing Group on Friday, July 21, 2017, we held an interview with one of our very own members! See the video below for the entire interview.
Angela Gardner is the Founder of Gardner Family Connections 4 Life. She is trained to administer and teach individuals and groups about the DISC Model of Human Behavior. She and her husband teach ongoing classes about how our personalities impact our relationships. Angela and her team work with men, women, teenagers, children and even couples to help them create healthy relationships.
In our interview, Angela will explain the research and process behind the DISC Model. She will also give examples about how understanding your personality can help strengthen your relationship with your children and even your co-parent!
My interview with Angela aired LIVE in the Divorce Proofing Group at 1pm Mountain Time on Friday, 7/21/17. The video will remain posted in the group for you to view later if you can’t attend the live version.
If you aren’t a group member, consider joining! Divorce Proofing is a Facebook group for divorced parents of teenagers to receive support and encouragement, ask questions, do a little venting and even laugh sometimes.
Simply click here to be redirected to the group.
Enjoy the interview!
For most people, divorce brings up SO MANY feelings. And most of them are unpleasant.
The separation and divorce process prompts a grieving process for you, your co-parent and for your teenager. As with other losses, each person will have their own unique response and reaction.
Your teen’s grieving process may not seem to fit well with yours (think one person wanting to hide, isolate, withdraw or be quiet and the other lashing out, feeling angry and needing to vent).
This can be overwhelming for many parents. Dealing with your own emotions might take a lot of energy right now. How the heck are you supposed to help your kids, too?!
Honesty is really the best policy here, generally speaking. Brutal, soul-baring honesty is probably not necessary or helpful. BUT it is more than alright for your teen to know that you’re not okay right now!
Here are a few suggestions of what you can say to your teen when you’re both hurting because of the divorce:
Reassure children that you will take care of your feelings and their feelings, that you will be okay with a little more time. Let them know that you’re there to parent, support and love them through this difficult time no matter what – and things will get better.
Please do not share your not-so-nice feelings and opinions about the other parent with your child.
Complaining conversations should be shared with a trusted friend, family member or professional, not your teen. By doing this, you are protecting your child from the nastiest part of divorce – the bad feelings between their parents. It also leaves time for you to really connect with your child when you are with them. It is hard to do this if all of your conversations about the divorce are focused on your former spouse.
I'd love to hear about your conversations with your teens when you were hurting the most. Did they go well? Were they really hard? Please leave a comment!
Looking for support as you parent your teen before, during and after your divorce? Join the Divorce Proofing Facebook group today!
School is out (or almost out) for kids in traditional schools. I bet your teens are THRILLED!
Inevitably, the “I’m bored…” statements will start after a few weeks. For many of the parents I work with, this is incredibly frustrating. After all, can you remember the last time you were genuinely bored? Adulthood and parenthood changes our views on boredom. Sometimes I wish I had time to be bored!
I digress. The fact is that kids do get bored and it is our job to help them learn to manage that feeling and experience. Here are my suggestions to help them learn to deal with being bored without over-doing the video games, Netflix binges and fights with you or their sibling(s).
My hope is that these suggestions help avoid lectures and statements like these:
Teen: “But Mooooooooom” or "But Daaaaaaaaaad."
Teen: “But there is NOTHING to do here!”
You: A lecture on the merits of downtime and not being busy.
I also hope these tips will help strengthen your teen’s ability to identify their feelings. They can help your child practice brainstorming and planning (with your help at first).
And maybe, just maybe, it’ll get a few of those summer chore lists done, too.
Give these a try and come back and tell me how they worked for your family!
Are you a divorced parent of a bored teen? Join us in the Divorce Proofing Facebook Group today! Join here: www.divorceproofing.com/join
Bethany Raab is a Denver-based social worker who loves helping teens and their families be happy and healthy!