According to research, just under half of all South African marriages will end in divorce before they reach the 10-year mark. Divorce is common, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to deal with. It’s tough on the entire family and although you’re certain that you’re making the best decision for all your loved ones, it can come with undesirable conflict and consequences.
Children will always struggle when their parents get divorced – whether they are five, 18 or 40. Here are our tips for helping your university-going student through this challenging period of transition.
Announcing a divorce can be a real shock to the system for your teen, even if it was ‘obvious’ that both of their parents have been unhappy for a while. It’s extremely important that you communicate openly and honestly and that you re-assure your teen that you are both there for them. Initially, this may be met with anger and dismissal but, in the long run, your child will likely come to you for help or a hug once they are ready and have processed the news.
As we know all too well, teens are notorious for supressing emotion and pretending that they are unaffected by things even when they are drowning inside. They are hesitant to express their real emotions, especially to their parents. However, the more they bottle up these feelings, the worse they can get, often leading to depression, anxiety, anger issues or negative behaviours. Encourage your child to feel and talk about their emotions by doing the same about yours. A teen is more likely to share and open up to you if you are brave enough to do so first.
Keep the peace
Divorce is rarely pretty. Often, there’s a lot of anger and resentment involved, and this can make it difficult to remain civil towards your soon-to-be ex-partner. However, you must remember that they are still your children’s parent and that your children still loves them very much. Do your best to keep the peace when interacting with one another, at least in the instances when your kids are present. An amicable approach to the separation can make everything run more smoothly for both you and your children, regardless of their age.
If you notice that your child is taking the news of the impending divorce particularly hard, it’s a good idea to find them the right support. Sometimes it can be difficult to talk to your loved ones about how you feel. In many cases, your teen will feel more comfortable talking to a ‘stranger’ in the form of a counsellor or psychologist. Check with their university as many campuses have a counsellor on-site who is available free of charge.
You may also wish to get in touch with The South African Divorce Support Association which will be able to offer both you and your kids the support you all need to heal and move on.