Surviving divorce: Teens can cope

Thomas Haller, Feature Writer

Splitting up.

A divided household leads to increased stress on children of divorce.

With about half of marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, it’s important to recognize that teens with separating parents are at a higher risk for excessive stress and other mental health issues.

But while teens can’t control the end of a marriage, there’s a lot they CAN control about how they handle the changes.

“Some kids are (more) vulnerable to mental health problems,” says Allina Nikolopoulou, Haven Middle School social worker. “Divorce especially affects these children throughout their lives.”

While most kids who have been through a divorce go on to become well-adjusted, independent adults, U.S. Census statistics show that 20% of them experience psychological or social difficulties that continue into their adult lives. A key risk factor for stress and mental health issues is ongoing conflict between family members.

Many kids are affected most significantly at the time of the divorce. “At the time it did stress me out because there were so many different things that I had to get used to,” says freshman Saskia Teterycz. “It was just a lot to take in, especially at such a young age.”

According to the Harris Law Firm, it’s dangerous to put kids in the middle of the divorce. Although divorce is tough on parents, it can be even tougher on kids. Most cases of excessive stress occur when parents can’t execute their divorce in a smooth way. The best way to execute a smooth divorce is through co-parenting, which is when parents work together to help their children and ensure that responsibilities are split equally.

Family law experts suggest that there are three steps to most effectively deal with divorce.

The first is to give it time. Teen life can feel stressful enough without adding more changes like moving to a new home or splitting time between parents. Kids need parents to reassure them and work through the changes they’ll face. Open communication helps, too.

The second is to let others support you. Family and friends can be good listeners and give feedback and fresh perspectives. Teens can also benefit from talking to school counselors or mental health professionals about their feelings.

Finally, focus on the positive. Divorce can make it feel like life is on hold, but teens should keep living their lives, and make time for fun. Focus on being active, healthy and moving forward.  Learning to cope with tough circumstances is an important life skill.

“(Plenty of) kids fare very well during divorce,” says Nikolopoulou. “When there is co-parenting and consistency, children don’t tend to have too many problems.”

“My parents’ divorce was smooth and easy,” says freshman Charlie Levisay. “It definitely helps now, because I’m not feeling the stress of a divorce from years ago.”

For more information on divorce and how it affects young people, visit


Marriages vs. Divorces in the U.S.

Number of marriages 2,140,272
Marriage rate 6.9 per 1,000
Number of divorces 813,862
Divorce rate 3.2 per 1,000