Recently, on our Parenting Today's Teens radio program, my guest and good friend, Dr. Melody Rhode commented that the death of a child is such a catastrophic experience in the life of parents; it leads 90% of those marriages to fail. A shocking statistic, isn't it?
In my years of working with thousands of struggling teens and their parents, I've learned that parents of troubled teens experience a similar sense of grief and loss, and also a profound sense of betrayal from their teen. Perhaps their teen has run away or otherwise has totally abandoned the family and everything they hold dear. To these parents it may seem as though a death has occurred, and as such, it similarly puts a great deal of stress on their marriage.
Often, the crisis with a teen amplifies the true condition of a marriage, revealing its areas of weakness. A teen's acting out may actually be his unintentional way of forcing the adults in his life to deal with their obvious marital problems. It may be a relational problem that everyone in the family already knows exists but is never talked about or addressed or, it could simply be a lack of real love or respect in the relationship. Unfortunately, a parent who tends to be always absent, angry, too submissive or too strict may demonstrate these traits even more as they also have to deal with their teen's behavior. It can be overwhelming for any parent.
On the other hand, I've seen many parents (even parents who had previously divorced each other) band together when their teen experiences troubles. Contrary to the hopelessness of a death, these parents are hopeful that something can yet be done to help their teen. They know that more is at stake than their own needs. They know that this issue with their teenager is bigger and more important than their own issues. Therefore, they know they had better get their own act together, or their teen may be lost forever.
For married parents who want to help their teen through this crisis, it is critical to understand that dealing with a struggling teen can be hard on your marriage. Really hard! And the failure of your marriage in the midst of the turmoil can lead to even more dire consequences for your teenager. To help you avoid these destructive forces, I encourage you to take these proactive steps:
Preventing Marital Jeopardy for Parents of Troubled Teens
Above all, know this: Teens in crisis are experts at pitting one parent against another, creating a wedge in order to deflect attention away from their own bad behavior. So, at a time like this, be aware that you will be challenged with more marital problems. If you keep in mind where those stressors are coming from and also take to heart the steps I've outlined above, it could save your marriage.
Don't let the temporary struggles with a teen damage your lifetime relationship with your spouse. Think about it. Hopefully, your spouse will be around your house a lot longer than your teen will be. Hold on. Stay the course. And don't loose sight. This thing called adolescence will soon pass. But take advantage of those things you can learn during the struggle. These lessons can actually improve your marriage.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas. For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website. It's filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Go to www.heartlightministries.org. Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173. Hear the Parenting Today's Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.
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