The Do’s and Don’ts With Your Teen During a Divorce

couple getting divorced

No marriage begins with the end goal in mind of getting a divorce. It’s a painful and often devastating experience for all involved, and is particularly destabilizing for children. It’s an experience that can provoke anger and anxiety as they struggle to understand something beyond their control that turns their lives upside down. While divorce can be tumultuous for children of any age, teens are at an especially critical developmental phase where the potential for risky behavior in response is high. Here is a list of key “Do’s” and “Don’ts” with your teenager to help them weather the storm as gracefully as possible if you’re going through a divorce.

What Not To Do…

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What Is The Best Way to Deal with Anger?

Uh-oh. You ticked off Thor.


A universal human emotion. Not fun. Often not pretty.

But like the common cold, for all our technology and science, we have not figured out how to eradicate this all too common of emotions, and so it’s worth asking: what is the best way to deal with anger?

This is incredibly relevant in my work helping parents understand and communicate more effectively with their teenagers, but also translates to countless other human interactions.

First though, a little definitional detour might be in order.

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Understanding Your Teenager Part 3: What is the Secondary Gain Behind Bad Teen Behavior?

Teenage girl
Teenage girl

In the first article in this series, I wrote about the 4 universal human needs that govern a teen’s behavior. In the second in the series, I focused on what these basic needs look like in real life scenarios. In this third and final article in the series, I’m going to diver deeper into why teens will often behave in ways that are counter-productive to their success so you understand the secondary gain behind bad teen behavior.

Another quick and easy way to understand your teen’s irresponsible behaviors and poor choices outlined here is in terms of the “secondary gain” he gets from those decisions. What is the secondary gain behind bad teen behavior?

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Understanding Your Teenager Part 2: Responsible vs. Irresponsible Behavior in Teens

Responsible vs. Irresponsible Behavior in Teens

In the first article in this series, I wrote about the 4 universal human needs that govern a teen’s behavior. In this shorter article, I’m going to unpack how those 4 needs interact in real-life scenarios, particularly when it comes to understanding responsible vs. irresponsible behavior in teens.

Being able to get all 4 of our basic needs met and keep them in balance, is a hallmark of maturity. I say this because in truth it isn’t always easy. These needs are often competing with each other in our lives. Think about this for a second in your own experience. Dad, you might really like spending a good part of your weekends off with your friends hunting or playing golf or watching sports on TV. But mom, how do you feel about that? His need for freedom and fun might be competing with keeping love and belonging issues in a healthy place at home. And if there is tension around this, it’s going to have an impact on the fun you can actually have.

When your teen is able to choose behaviors that hold these 4 needs in balance without resulting in negative consequences, we could say he is behaving responsibly. Responsible behaviors now give teens better choices in the long run.

What happens very often with teens is that they make decisions that try to satisfy one or more of these needs at the expense of the others. This would be considered irresponsible behavior. Irresponsible behaviors work against us by limiting our choices in the future.

Here are a few examples:

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Breaking News: Your Teenager May Find You Annoying and Tune You Out!


I know, it’s shocking. Hard to believe, really. You probably hadn’t noticed the signs of it all. But alas, it may very well be true. You can take this quick multiple choice question to determine if this is fact or fiction in your home:

When you ask your teen about (seemingly) everyday things (doing their homework, talking to their teacher about their Chemistry questions, what they did at their friend’s house after school), which reaction do you get?:

  1. Rolling of the eyes, accompanied by loud exhalation (aka: a pained sigh).
  2. A single-to-few word, monotone answer (i.e. No, Yes, Ok, I Don’t Know, Whatever…), accompanied by body language which suggests utter disbelief you actually had the gaul to ask such a question.
  3. Yelling and blaming (accompanied by flailing hand gestures) at a volume that would suggest you just gave his dog away to a laboratory for purposes of scientific experimentation.
  4. All of the above.

No matter, really, what answer you chose. If you can even relate to the question in the first place, you’ll find this post helpful.

So, while this may not come as startling news, it is true that your teenager may find you annoying and tune you out!

So let’s get right to it: why does your teenager get so annoyed with you?

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Understanding Teen Behavior, Part 1: The Basic Needs

understading teens part 1 image for jw

This is part 1, in a 3 part series where I’m going on to lay out the core reasons why teenagers behave the way they do – even if those behaviors seem negative and self-defeating. While ultimately what matters most is how you respond and communicate with your teens, I have found that understanding teen behavior is really helpful for parents as they navigate these often choppy waters.

Part 2 will be: Understanding Teen Behavior, Part 2: Responsible & Irresponsible Behavior

Part 3 will be: Understanding Teen Behavior, Part 3: What Is The Secondary Gain?

This first post in the series is going to be long. I contemplated breaking it into two different posts but ultimately decided against it because I think it’s important to take in all four of the ideas I’ll discuss at once rather than installments. Parts 2 & 3 will be shorter.

First things first: I need to give credit for the model I’m going to share to Dr. William Glasser (1925-2013). I learned of him from early mentor of mine many years ago and it’s something I’ve referenced in my work consistently since. Among other things, he offered a model for understanding human behavior that is both magnificent in it’s simplicity and remarkable in the way it has stood the test of time.

The model was originally called Reality Therapy and he later changed it to Choice Theory. The model is based on 4 core needs that ALL human beings have (assuming our food/clothing/shelter needs are already accounted for). It doesn’t matter where you live, what color you are or whose God you believe in – these 4 basic needs apply to you. According to Glasser, we’re always trying to fulfill all 4 of these needs through everything we do. Applied to teenagers, think of this as “Teen Psychology 101”.

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How to Stay Calm When Your Teen Is Driving You Nuts

calm_water_2048x1152Last week, I talked how critically important being in a calm state of mind with your teenagers is. I can’t overstate that enough. Will just relaxing resolve every challenge you’re having at home? Of course not. But it is the first step in resolving just about all of them. To reiterate, when you’re calm you make better, smarter decisions (which will minimize further conflict and headaches) and you are modeling for your teens how an adult should deal with challenging situations. That’s a skill that will serve them well in their lives.

So I’m sure this all sounds well and good, but you also might be asking yourself by now, “Ok smart guy…it sounds good, but how do I actually do it? When my kids are fighting with each other, disregarding my rules and making my house look like it got hit by a hurricane, how do you suggest I stay calm? Huh?”

First, let’s acknowledge that you won’t likely do it 100% of the time. None of us do. We’re all human. That said, let’s talk about the tools necessary to make this happen which don’t involve spending a week on a tropical beach – something most of us can’t engineer with the simple snap of our fingers.

The first thing you need to do is to learn to become the director of your own movie. Let me explain:

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Who Is Operating Your Control Panel?

Control-Panel-of-Coating-MachineI have news for you. It may be frightening and it may be liberating, but I assure you it’s true:

There is a control panel wired directly into your brain.

What’s more?

Your teenager has direct access to it.

In the simplest terms possible, HE KNOWS EXACTLY HOW TO PUSH YOUR BUTTONS. He knows exactly what to say, and what not to say to get the response from you that he wants, and his timing is usually impeccable. Teens know how to make their parents smile and adore them so they can get money, a special favor, a ride, use of the car, or the new cell phone they want. They also know how to make you howl with anger, and if you’ve allowed them to have access to your control panel in the past, they are probably pretty darn masterful at knowing which buttons to push now to get the response they’re looking for. From a very early age kids learn what behaviors they can get away with and which ones they can’t.

In order to have a great relationship with your teen and a peaceful, happy home environment, you MUST remove your teen’s access to it. You’ve got to take back control of it.

You want to be operating your own control panel – not your teenager (or anybody else for that matter).

Now I don’t want you to gloss this over and think “yeah, yeah…I know I need to keep my cool a bit better.” This is deeper and more important than that. The key to a happy home begins with taking control of your own emotional reactions to the things that happen within it.

It begins with taking a DEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP breath, and staying calm – even when they’re pushing your buttons.

When you are calm, you’re in control. When you don’t let things rattle you, you’re in control. When you’re calm and confident, you’re the pack leader and you’re in control of your house.

Here are the 2 primary reasons for being in a calm state of mind with your teen:

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Why Self-Confidence Is Your Greatest Asset In Having A Peaceful Home

antOne of the most common reasons parents reach out to me is because they are not getting along well with their teenagers. Typically, there is a lot of fighting, tension and disrespect (the house is full of W.M.D’s as I like to call it – Whining, Manipulation, & Disrespect). When this happens, it’s very energy draining – at least for the parents. Often the teens actually thrive on the chaos as it gives them a sense of power.

When I help them peel back the layers of the onion, one of the things I often see is the parents lack self-confidence in two common, but related ways:

  1. What it means to be the appropriate authority figure at home
  2. What rules they want for their home

Building up this self-confidence is critical to restoring balance at home. It’s the first step in reducing the terrible stress of being at odds with your children and everything that comes with it (stress in your marriage, negative impact on your other children, and loss of joy at home to name a few).

Here are 4 basic principles I work on with parents to help them build up their self-confidence so they are empowered to take back control of the emotional climate in their home.

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