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Supporting Teenagers of Divorced Parents

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What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” (Peterson, 2008)

“What Is Positive Psychology & Why Is It Important? [2019 Update].”

It is the scientific study of human thoughts, emotions, and behavior with their strengths in mind, not weaknesses. It’s about what it takes to build on the good life instead of repairing the bad by focusing on positive events and influences on lives. We need to be spending more time thinking about topics such as character strength and not what we’re lacking. These topics are studied to learn how to help people flourish and live their best lives (“What Is Positive Psychology & Why Is It Important? [2019 Update].”)!

Martin Seligman is widely seen as the father of contemporary positive psychology for he created the acronym PERMA. PERMA stands for positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments. While all of them are important, positive relations is one of the most essential parts for children dealing with the divorce of parents (“PERMA – A Well-Being Theory by Martin Seligman.”).

Focus Group: Teenagers Living with Divorced Parents

While I can not personally relate to this group, many of my friends have gone through this themselves so I wanted to truly understand what it was like for them. I wanted to get inside the brain of my best friend and see exactly what her experience has been. With a multitude of questions I asked during an interview, I started to see it – live through it in her eyes.

When she told me about the divorce in eighth grade, I was heartbroken for her. I was at a complete loss of what to say or do to comfort her and help her through it. This is the reason for choosing this topic as my project, I was unable to help her out before so now I want to help anyone else who feels alone and sad for their parent’s divorce.

Background

Parents don’t always know what their kids are thinking because…they keep their feelings to themselves”

Afifi

Around 40-50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce! I know it’s shocking, but those are just the facts. Like you all probably know, divorce can be a very traumatic experience for children (American Psychological Association). Parents need to recognize divorce is stressful for children and results in an increase in sadness, anger, and anxiety. If parents are fighting, it becomes increasingly more difficult for the children because the child feels torn between the two, but it’s not child’s fault! They then internalize it and stress level goes up even further (Afifi).

Children have 3 major responses to fighting parents:

  • Avoid emotions (not good) because they don’t want parents to see them feeling sad/guilty
  • Mimic conflict → aggressive to other kids/people
  • Confront parents and ask them to take them out of middle (best option for kids) (Afifi)

There has been research done that states that in a year or two they eventually adjust, but that is only with the right circumstances. Furthermore, recent research also states that children who have a poor relationship with one parent may have an extremely hard time dealing with divorce. (American Psychological Association)

Here’s a TED Talk on the impact of divorce on children:

What parents and teens can do to make divorce easier on both

  • Keeping peace – teens can ask parents to try calling truce to any bickering/unkind words they might say to each other
  • Be fair – teens shouldn’t take sides to the divorce favoring one parent or the other
  • Keep in touch
  • Work it out – helps if parents can figure out a way to make this work, especially because you may need to feel the support and presence of both parents even more during divorce
  • Talk about the future – tell your parents about your concerns — when there’s enough time to sit down with one or both parents to discuss how the divorce will affect you
  • Figure out your strengths – divorce can help them learn about their strengths, and put in place some new coping skills
  • Live your life – make sure to participate in as many of your normal activities as possible
  • Let others support you – talk about your feelings and reactions to the divorce with someone you trust (kids health) (“Dealing With Divorce (for Teens).”

Divorcing parents and children can benefit from speaking to psychologist to deal with emotions and adjust to changes such as group therapies (American Psychological Association). Here is a link to one of the websites: www.teencounseling.com  is an online platform where teens from ages 13-20 can get help from a licensed therapist online.

Take this Survey Please!

Gratitude Practice

Doing a gratitude practice is one of the most effective ways to help children cope with their parents divorce. Join me in making a gratitude journal!

Overview + Materials:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Day 5:

Share Your Work

I would love to see your journal pages. Click this link to share:

Works Cited

Afifi, Tamara. “The Best Possible Thing You Can Do to Help Your Child through Divorce.” Ideas.ted.com, Ideas.ted.com, 25 Jan. 2018, ideas.ted.com/the-best-possible-thing-you-can-do-to-help-your-child-through-your-divorce/.

American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/topics/divorce/.

“Dealing With Divorce (for Teens).” Edited by D’Arcy Lyness, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Jan. 2015, kidshealth.org/en/teens/divorce.html.

“PERMA – A Well-Being Theory by Martin Seligman.” Jane Taylor | Confidence Coaching | Wellbeing Coaching | Emotional Intelligence Coaching | Gold Coast | Mindfulness Teacher, www.habitsforwellbeing.com/perma-a-well-being-theory-by-martin-seligman/.

“What Is Positive Psychology & Why Is It Important? [2019 Update].” [2019 Update], 8 Apr. 2019, https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/what-is-positive-psychology-definition/.

Share your thoughts and leave comments below!

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COMMENTS: 8
  1. April 25, 2019 by Kailen Citron Reply

    I really like this topic because it affects a lot of students greatly. It can create a lot of stress for students that have to go through this so it is important to stay grateful for the small things that you have. I really like the idea of a gratitude journal that is creative and smart! Nice job.

    • April 27, 2019 by Addie Behrens Reply

      Thank you for taking the time to check out my page Kailen!

  2. April 26, 2019 by Zoe Beach Reply

    Hey Addie! I love how you addressed different ways for both parents and kids to make the divorce process easier because divorce does affect so many people. From personal experience, your world can really be turned upside down in a flash and having the recourses close by to help you through those tough times truly are necessary! I thought that the gratitude journal idea was a really cool and creative way for kids to effectively work through their emotions. As a friend of a divorced kid, how would you recommend/how did you support that friend in ways that other kids can take advice from? Awesome page!

    • April 27, 2019 by Addie Behrens Reply

      Hi Zoe! Thank you so much for taking time to look at my page! I would recommend just being there as someone to listen to and someone they can trust. Having positive relationships with others is key in coping with divorce.

  3. April 26, 2019 by Yoska.Guta Reply

    Hi Addie! I loved your topic. It is something that is so relevant in so many of our peers’ lives and I think you did a great job addressing such a sensitive topic. Your suggestions for how to solve the issues that arise because of divorce were very helpful. Although some of the actual actions a child can take to better their situation may not sound difficult, the impact of their action is so great. I also think it was really good that you provided actions that both children AND parents could take. Again, this was an amazing project and you presented it so well! One question I have is this: How can I support my friends who are going through a hard time because their parents are getting divorced?

    • April 27, 2019 by Addie Behrens Reply

      Hi Yoska! I really appreciate you looking at my page, thank you! And as I said earlier, just be there for the friend and create positive relationships with them through trust and listening.

  4. May 01, 2019 by Mason Harper Reply

    Hi Addie! Your project was really awesome! Being a child of divorce it was interesting to see some of the stuff that I had gone through written down. I love your idea of creating a gratitude journal because I think that would have been helpful for me at the beginning. One thing I think is important to note is that while being there for a friend who is going through their parents getting divorced is helpful, the best thing to do (for me and what my other friends who have divorced parents have said) is to normalize the situation for your friend and not treat them any differently then you did before. Again, great project! 🙂

  5. May 03, 2019 by Chloe Countryman Reply

    Hey Addie! I clicked on your project right when I saw the title. I like how you specificaly made your project about the kids of divorced parents and what it is like for them. Similar to you my parents are not divorced but it has been in the discussion so living in a broken home is very draining so it was comforting to read this. I also have friends who have gone through this so reading this helped me again better understand their own situations. Great work!

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