Divorce Etiquette: The Book To Hand Your Parents When They Separate

Divorce Etiquette

Sometimes, as teens, you might have a clearer view than your parents. Besides, your smart and you’re not jaded by the life experiences that your parents might be. Add to that the fact that they are in the middle of a divorce and you just might be able to see the forest through the trees.

This isn’t to say that you won’t have your own problems with your parents divorcing. There’s a good chance you will. But you might just be able to see through that pain to help your parents along. And if this is the case, you might want to know about a book written by clinical psychologist, Jann Blackstone-Ford and the ex-wife of her current husband, Sharyl Jupe. Together, they outlined an approach to getting along with ex-spouses for the sake of the child. And what they emphasize for parents – and here’s where you can advocate for yourself – is to put the children first.

The book is titled Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation, written in 2010, and it encourages parents to take full responsibility for the effects of divorce on their children. The authors of this book witnessed the widespread damage of divorce on children and teens and experienced firsthand the difficulties of blending families. The book encourages parents to take responsibility for their choices and stop damaging their children with emotional outbursts and attempts at revenge.

The book highlights the need for parents to change their point of view – from theirs to the children. That means you! And this book also points out that the love a parent has for their children should come before his or her own pain.

Now you probably don’t want to say that outright, but you could simply and casually let your parents know that, hey, there’s a book you want them to read. Besides, as you can imagine, divorce can have significant impacts on you and the rest of the family. The consequences for teens bring considerable concern that warrants attention, tenderness, and care, and parents need to tend to that. For instance, the emotional costs suffered by children whose parents divorce include embarrassment, fear of abandonment, grief over loss, irrational hope of reconciliation, worry about their parents’ well-being, anxiety about divided loyalties, and uncertainty about romantic relationships.

But if you’re not affected by all that, or worse, blinded by it, perhaps you can facilitate an easy transition through the divorce. To facilitate this the authors lay out a of guidelines to follow, based on ethical behavior:

  • Put the children first.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • No badmouthing.
  • Biological parents make the rules; bonus parents uphold them.
  • Don’t be spiteful.
  • Don’t hold grudges.
  • Use empathy when problem solving.
  • Be honest and straightforward.
  • Respect each other’s turf.
  • Compromise whenever possible.

In America, the current rate of divorce is 3.8% per 1000 people. At the same time, the divorce rates over the last 2 decades have steadily declined, partially due to an increase in cohabitation. Yet, research shows that children with divorced parents fared worse in terms of self-esteem, academic performance, peer relationships, behavioral problems, physical health, and depression and anxiety than children whose parents were continuously married.

If you are beginning to see the effects of the divorce on you and the rest of the family, perhaps these 10 guidelines listed above can make it easier. If followed by your parents (assuming they read the book), these guidelines could facilitate an easy transition to a post-divorce experience.

Of course, for you as the teen, all of this is shaky ground to navigate. Yet, if your parents can keep you close and make you their first priority, then the road through divorce might not feel so tumultuous.

Girls: Stay Close To Your Parents During Divorce

DivorceYou might get mad, hate them, and swear that you’re never going to speak to them again. You might feel broken in a way that you haven’t before.

The truth is for girls and female teens, relationships are important. This is not to say that relationships aren’t important for boys too; they are. But research shows that divorce can have a stronger negative impact on teenage girls, who tend to define themselves through relationships, connection to others, and bonds with friends and family. For this reason, although you hate them, see if you can find a way to communicate your feelings and fears. Find a way to keep your relationship with your parents close.

When the structure of a girl’s family, a structure they’ve known throughout their lives is disrupted, an internal structure is also at risk for breaking down. Girls tend to be socialized by their mothers and tend to be more obedient and responsible than boys. Because of this, you might keep your emotions to yourself. You might conceal how you really feeling in order to tend to your mother’s (or father’s) adjustment to the change and make the appearance that everything is all right.

However, although you might conceal your feelings, you might also have a delayed reaction to your emotions, which might later come on quietly. For instance, some girls might feel shame, which can lead to low self-esteem, and self blame. This might also lead to choosing partners that do not treat you the way you should be treated and having unhealthy relationships.

The strong relationships a daughter has with each of her parents can provide a buffer to the intensity of a divorce. Supportive parents can help weather the stormy home life of a divorce. They can help maintain or at least re-build the stability that girls need. But if your family also has domestic violence or other forms of family violence, such as child abuse or emotional abuse, it will be more difficult for girls to get the steadiness they need. Children, including boys, need structure. When the family unit is broken, that structure deteriorates.

Girls, to be able to make it through divorce of your parents, especially when other factors exist in the family, like addiction or domestic violence, it’s important to get outside help. Find a mental health professional to work with, a support group, or other means of professional help.

And throughout it all, your individual relationships with your parents are important. The relationship you have with her mother is significant. For some girls, the mother-daughter relationship suffers after divorce. However, if you have a strong bond from the beginning, that bond can serve as a protective factor during the split. This is also true for your relationship with your father. Since most girls will side with their mother during a divorce, a young girl might have significant issues of trust if she is not able to heal her relationship with her father before, during, or after a divorce.

Although it’s challenging, keep your relationships with each of your parents alive. Continue to share your feelings, your fears, your frustrations. Doing so will only bring you closer.