By Laura Rupert Garcia, eHow Contributor


Divorce is hard for the couple, but many times it’s even harder on teens in the family. They can’t understand what’s happening in an adult way and, as a result, are affected emotionally, academically, and psychologically. It’s not uncommon for a teen to change her outlook on the world or even her personality in response to a divorce. Teens thrive on continuity, even though they would dispute this. As a result, when their parents’ divorce it truly can impact them. Parents should be understanding, supportive, and never say negative things about their former spouse in front of teens.


  1. Impact on Academic Performance

    • Academically, teens who are dealing with the divorce of their parents begin to suffer academically as much as a year before the divorce occurs. This is shocking to many parents who assume their teens will only suffer during and after the divorce. This shows how important it is for parents to support their children and assist them academically during the stressful events that surround a disintegrating marriage and eventual divorce. The National Education Longitudinal Study show that teens scored lower in both math and reading, beginning up to a year before the parents separated. Some teens may be affected academically more than others, depending on the teen’s reaction and personality. However, all teens will likely be affected to some degree.

    Effects of Divorce on Teen Behavior

    • Divorce affects teens differently than younger children and it doesn’t affect every teen in the same way. However, all teens will be affected to some degree and many exhibit poor behavior as a result of the divorce. Many teens will act out, talk back to their parents and teachers, sneak out or start fights. Some even get arrested or start dabbling in narcotics and alcohol. Teens are looking for an outlet for their frustrations and fears and many times acting out is the only way they know to decompress and get the attention they are looking for, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.

    Warning Signs

    • Parents and caregivers should watch teens for signs of psychological problems during a divorce. Any change in attitude, sleeping, or extracurricular activities should be evaluated. Also, teens who start hanging out with a different crowd, change their outlook on life, or begin acting “different” than before should be watched carefully and may need to talk with a counselor. It’s not uncommon for teens to worry that they were the cause of their parents’ breakup or whether anyone will love them and leave them in the future. It is important to be open, honest, and very loving to teens during this period.

    Prevention of Substance Abuse

    • It’s not uncommon for teens to turn to substance abuse when their parents are going through a divorce. Many times the home environment is difficult, and teens stress over their parents’ relationship, the cause of the animosity, and their future. Turning to alcohol or drugs is a way to feel good and momentarily forget what’s going on in their lives. Teens should be carefully monitored and at the first sign of substance abuse steps should be taken to intervene.

    Family Support

    • Before, during, and after a divorce it is important to have family support. Teens need their extended family members as well as their parents to take a break and support them, listen to them, and explain the divorce to them. It’s confusing, scary, and emotionally scarring, and teens are unlikely to admit their true feelings without a supportive network.