Parenting: Teens Can Find Help, Support When their Parents Decide to Divorce
Inspired by his own experience and the experience of his friends, Bill Sears, a 16-year old in Marietta, Ga., decided to create his own Web site to help kids deal with divorce. He created BillsArena.com in April 2006, which he touts as the "the Internetís first divorce support site for kids, by a kid."
"A lot of people are really shocked that a 16-year old kid would put up something like that," said Sears, who thinks that teens connect more with the Web site because it is written by a teen.
"I saw the problems that I went through with my parents' divorce, and it really affected me and hurt me a lot, and I really saw a lot of other kids at school who were just having a hard time," he said. "I said, 'I think I'll stick some of my advice up there and help them get through this abomination called divorce.'"
He thinks kids and parents enjoy his Web site is because it approaches divorce from a different perspective. "I take a very sarcastic approach on it, actually, and it's very in your face. I'm not going around it. I'll just say how it is, and deal with it," said Sears. "I get a lot of 'thank yous' for putting this up."
According to a brochure from the Center for Young Women's Health, divorce can cause a number of feelings for teens -- from shock, surprise, anxiety, anger, sadness, fear, guilt, relief, worry and a "feeling of loss....All of these feelings are a normal part of coping with all of the changes in your family life..."
According to Sister Mary Carole Curran, a psychologist and execustive director of Catholic Family Services in Sioux Falls, S.D., divorce is harder on the children than the parents. There are many questions, particularly as the former spouses move on and begin dating or remarrying. Curran said her job is to help youngsters cope with those changes.
For instance, when a parent begins dating, sometimes the new significant other tries too hard to befriend the child. Or if a parent remarries, the new spouse takes over parenting when the parent is to weak, which is a mistake. "The new spouse should know that he or she does not ever replace the children's biological parent..." Curran said.
"They [the step-parent] should stand behind the rules that the parent makes," Curran said. "The parent makes and enforces the rules, in the only case of which they're alone and, like a baby-sitter, they have authority. Too often, the step-parent steps in, and especially if the natural parent is weak in parenting, they're going to come in and fix all the mistakes the natural parent made, and that's the quickest way they're going to get rejected."
Other Web sites with sections dedicated to helping young people with divorce include KidsHealth.org and the University of Illinois' iConnect (http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/~iconnect). iConnect offers charts, graphs, numbers and facts about divorce, mixed with insights gained from research done about divorce. Some of the research has involved asking teens about what it is like to have their parents divorced. There is also a chatroom and one teenager's short blog of his family's divorce.
As for Bill Sears? All the positive response he has gotten from his Web site "makes me feel better," he said. "To the kids out there, I tell them to stick with what your beliefs are, and deal with your parents. There's some good advice out there to help you get through it, and in the long run, you'll have a very healthy relationship with your parents."
10 TIPS FOR TEENS AND DIVORCE
What to do if you're a teen feeling the aftermath of divorce or a parent needing advice for your children? The Center for Young Women's Health recommends tips on how to deal with divorce and its effects.
1. It is normal to feel relieved, instead of upset, that your parents are divorcing, particularly if they have been arguing a lot.
2. Realize that your life will never be the same again, and that's OK. It will be confusing but over time, it will get better.
3. Understand that you aren't the problem.
4. Don't let parents force you to choose one over the other.
5. Remember that things may need to change when you get older.
6. Don't feel embarrassed about going to a therapist. It can help.
7. It is normal to still feel the effects of divorce years later.
8. If you feel stressed out, there are different ways you can cope. Try an activity to avoid feeling bad.
9. Don't rule out the possibility of problems in the future. You must deal with them as they come.
10. When in doubt, consult a book. There are many good titles available to help you. The Center for Young Women's Health recommends a few, including "How It Feels When Parents Divorce," by Jill Krementz, "Teens are Non-Divorceable: A Workbook for Divorced Parents and Their Children Ages 12-18," by Sara Bonkowski and "Everything You Need to Know About Your Parents' Divorce," by Linda C. Johnson.
Krystle Russin is a freelance journalist in Austin, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in government (pre-law), and minors in journalism and history.
Submitted by: Krystle Russin * †
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