DR. WALLACE: Last year, my husband and our two teens were a happy family. Since then, my world has collapsed around me. My husband and his secretary told me one night that they were in love, that they were going to live together and he was going to file for a divorce.
I was caught by surprise and completely shocked. But now, I've gotten myself back to normal. I have a good job, and my teens are trying to adjust to our new lifestyle with me.
A year or so ago, you ran an article about teens and divorce. I never thought I would be a divorced parent. Is it possible that you could reprint the tips for teens given by a psychologist? I would be forever grateful if you will do this for me. — Mother in Need, via email
MOTHER: After a little research, I found the article you mentioned. I hope and trust this information will be of assistance to you.
Dr. Debra Huntly, a professor of psychology at Argosy University, says that children, regardless of their age, will have more difficulty adjusting after a divorce if there was, and still is, conflict between the parents. Huntly provides 10 tips from a child's perspective on how a divorcing or already divorced couple can help ease their children's pain during and/or after this potentially devastating event:
1. Don't put me in the middle. If you need to talk to each other, please do it yourself, not through me.
2. Don't make me take sides. You may not have a husband-wife relationship anymore, but I still have a mom and a dad. When possible, tell me something positive about my other parent.
3. Unless there is an abusive situation, allow me to have access to both parents. Take this into account when you are deciding where to live.
4. The better you can get along with each other, the better I will be able to cope with the divorce.
5. Ask me how I'm doing and what I need. Even though you are going through your own loss, I need help talking about what's going on.
6. Try to keep everything else in my life the same. It is stressful enough to lose a parent to divorce, but even tougher to move to a different school, a new neighborhood and a new home.
7. Remember that I am your child. Although you have gone through a divorce, my role is not to replace your spouse or be a friend. Continue to treat me as your child.
8. If you need to talk to somebody about what you are going through, find a friend or a therapist. It is too much for me to carry your burden as well.
9. No matter what my age may be, this is still a loss for me. I may show my angst in many different ways, including depression, anxiety, bursts of anger or "acting out" behavior. Please get me help if I am having deep difficulty.
10. I long for continuity, routine and tradition. Although our family has changed, please maintain as many traditions and routines as possible.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.