Divorce & Teenagers

Divorce leads to a complex and complicated family dynamic. Parents debate whether or not to medicate their adolescent child when he or she starts to show symptoms during a divorce. 

The teenage brain won’t reach maturity until age 25, so figuring out all the symptoms during the divorce can be tricky. Your adolescent may be moody or try to test limits but during a divorce there are added pressures he has to deal with.  He may be worrying about the future or parents may be battling, all occuring while he is upset over the splitting of his family.

How do you differentiate between an upset teen and a teen that may need treatment or medication?

First, does your child’s behavior precede the divorce? Some kids are naturally anxious or inattentive. If the child is already in treatment, stressors such as a divorce can worsen the already existing problem. Your child may benefit from counseling, where they can express concerns and learn coping tools. It’s possible that you and your ex are contributing to the child’s symptoms, so the therapist may help you contain your differences to situation when the child is not present. This could help lighten up symptoms in your child.

You should take concern if your child stays in bed a lot, or goes for a long period without showering or changing clothes. Can she not fall asleep or finish homework due to excess anxiety? In these types of situations, you could be facing something bigger than teenage hormones. It is also beneficial to inquire about the mental health history of your and the ex’s family, as mood and anxiety disorders can be genetic.

Psychological problems are also defined by how the problem impacts basic functioning. If you notice that your son is acting depressed, but he’s far from suicidal; he does well in school, he has good friends and an active social life, and he generally gives off an attitude of contentment, you are most likely dealing with normal teenage angst. If, on the other hand, your son protests constantly that he’s “fine”, but you clearly witness that he’s having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, his friends are no longer calling, and he’s lost interest in what used to give him pleasure, this may be an actual depression.

If one or both partners didn’t get clobbered by the experience of divorce, any children involved often feel deep emotional sadness and loss. Sometimes this sadness can impact people for years or even decades.
Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological problems and other mental illnesses. 

If you are concerned about the effect your divorce is having on your child or teenager, starting treatment for them at Apex is the best solution.