Post-Divorce Growing Pains

growing pains

I spend my days working with adolescents and my evenings working with the recently divorced. And apart from the taste in music, I increasingly find that the two groups share many growing pains as they navigate one of life’s major transitions. Both teenagers and the recently divorced are:

Learning to Be Independent

The teenagers I work with are just beginning to form their own opinions and beliefs apart from their parents. They are practicing how to navigate the world without an adult stepping in and taking care of business for them. After divorce, people are also learning to be independent, teasing out their own opinions from those of their spouse. They may have to take on new tasks that were once the domain of their partner. In both cases, the additional responsibility is scary yet the increasing independence is empowering, building confidence with each step.

Playing With Identity

I am no longer surprised when a previously preppy student comes in with hot pink hair or a teenager who listened to One Direction one week proclaims to love hard core rap the next. Young adults are famous for trying on and discarding identities like blue jeans in a dressing room. The recently divorced also have a tendency to play around with identity. The old identity no longer fits and it takes time (and some trial and error) to figure out the new one. With the divorcee, this exploration often extends to trying on new careers, new cities, new hobbies, new “types” when dating and a new appearance.

Struggling With Insecurity

Teenagers are notoriously insecure. They pull their hair down over their pockmarked faces, hoping that nobody will notice their pimpled skin. They stress over class presentations, convinced that their classmates are secretly laughing at them. The insecurity of the newly divorced is enhanced by a feeling of rejection. They worry that they are too old, too fat or too damaged to reenter the dating scene. Both groups can be found posting excessive selfies, not to show off, but to build confidence.

Trying to Make Sense of Emotions

Teenagers can be loving and sweet one moment and screeching baboons the next. They don’t mean to, they’re just trying to make sense of the world through the chaos of their changing brains and growing bodies. Their divorced counterparts may not be dealing with an influx of hormones, but they are learning how to deal with emotions powerful enough to level small towns. In both groups, expect plenty of tears, lots of shouting, out-of-control laughter and a rapid-fire switch between the three.

Scared and Excited About the Future

As high school approaches, my 8th graders lose their confidence and seek more attention from their teachers. They’re excited about the next chapter, but they’re also scared. Scared of new demands. New people. New responsibilities. And more opportunities for mistakes. After divorce, the future is also both scary (What if I never love again? How will I survive on only income? What if I only attract toxic relationships?) and exciting (I get to rebuild my life the way I want! I can finally buy that blue sofa he hated! I get a chance to date and explore new people!). Whether you are launching or relaunching, it’s not easy.

Figuring Out How to Belong

Middle schools are organized by cliques. And teenagers spend an inordinate amount of energy navigating these groups and figuring out where they belong within them. And there is always drama as allegiances are built and disassembled. After divorce, people have to renegotiate relationships with friends and family members. Lines are drawn. Friendships are dismantled. And new social groups are often sought.

Negotiating Boundaries

Teenagers negotiate for freedom yet crave the security of boundaries. They push and push until they hear “no” and then they push some more just to make sure. The recently divorced are also negotiating boundaries. With their ex and also with themselves. It’s a time of change. The freedom feels good to an extent. But it’s also good to know the limits.

If you’re feeling crazy after divorce, don’t worry. You’re just experiencing growing pains. Handle yourself the way you would a changing teenager. And find some relief that adolescence is just a phase.

Thank you for sharing!

8 thoughts on “Post-Divorce Growing Pains

  1. Spot on! (as usual). I saw myself as a teen (and as a recent divorced person) in each of the examples. Came out a stronger person each time. 🙂

  2. kimberlyjo2016 – Hi, I am a mom to 2 grown boys and a new daughter (1 of my sons just got married!). I work by day at a very structured job but by night, I like to write. Really I like to write stories infused with humor. I like finding humor in everyday situations. I like to try to find the silver lining, the positive in the negative and the glass half full kind of attitude. So by writing, I can make my stories turn out however I want them to! I may even throw in some poetry, not rhyming poetry, just rambling lines that sync with my thoughts. I will also throw in some of my photos (forgot to mention I am an aspiring photographer too). I hope you enjoy my little stories, please let me know if any of them speak to you! Oh, and the name #angelonmyshoulderphotography, is because I have had so many miracles along the way that everyone would always comment that I must have an angel on my shoulder watching over me. So I got an beautiful angel tattoo on my shoulder and that's how the name came about. I think it suits me!
    kayjcee2014 says:

    Reblogged this on surfacing-finding your way .

  3. “They worry that they are too old, too fat or too damaged to reenter the dating scene”. Yes – all of the above!

  4. renée a. schuls-jacobson – A educator and artist, Renée Schuls-Jacobson began taking Klonopin for insomnia back in 2004. In 2013, after a medically supervised 1-year wean, she became cognitively confused and accidentally went cold turkey before switching over to a water titration. After 30 months of intense suffering, she has been resurrected - a phoenix, come from the ashes, ready to battle doctors and big Pharma, while offering empathic support to those still suffering protracted withdrawal symptoms. A perfectionist by nature, she is learning to find beauty in the chaos. She's the girl with big ideas and big hair. And words. Always words.
    renée a. schuls-jacobson says:

    Omigosh! Yes, all of this. Thank you for writing this. I feel so alone with some of this stuff. I wonder if who I am will be “too much” for someone. My STBX always told me that I want too much everything – too much reassurance, too much affection, to much of his time. Thanks for the reminder that maybe someone else might like to hang out with me, huh?

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