When teens react strongly to news of divorce

Teens are biologically programmed to rebel against their parents. Between childhood and adulthood, teens must push boundaries and explore ways that they are distinct from their parents until they learn how to safely stand on their own feet. However, acts of teenage rebellion and angst are not often welcome contributions to a complex custody situation. In fact, an understandably rebellious teen may make child custody disputes even more complicated than they already are.

Teens may react to divorce with a variety of emotions. And should the teen blame one or more of his or her parents for the divorce itself, he or she may act out in ways that affect a child custody dispute. Most of the time, teens will be relieved when the process is settled and will adjust without much trouble. But they may become vocal players in the process before divorce and child custody arrangements are finalized.

As a result of this complex web of emotions, family politics and pure biology, it is important to address your teen's reaction to your divorce head-on. If he or she would benefit from counseling or other support, it is important to allow for that need. In addition, it is important to hear what your child is saying to you, even if the words and actions associated with his or her message are unkind.

In the end, whatever child custody arrangements you land on must be inspired by the best interest of your teen. This arrangement may or may not be their preferred choice. However, you should be on the lookout for acts of sabotage, should you advocate for their best interests in a way that they do not prefer. Chances are that their intentions are not bad ones, but understandable or not, you cannot ensure that their best interests are served if they are attempting to sabotage your efforts behind your back.

Source: Huffington Post, "'Hell No: I Won't Go'," Edward D. Farber, Feb. 9, 2013

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