Co-Parenting with a Teenager
Guest Post by CustodyXChange
The dreaded teenage years are a defining stage in a child’s life. They are also a terrifying and unprecedented stage for parents to deal with. If you don’t put up a united co-parenting front, chaos may ensue. Hormones have got a lot to answer for. Even as fully mature adults we are well aware of the way love can make us completely irrational.
Accepting this exploratory period of your child’s life is scary. They’re finding themselves, trying new things, forming their own opinions, and taking risks. Relationships will develop, and you have to learn how to deal with this.
Consistency and stability are the cornerstones of an effective parenting plan. Maintaining consistency in both households is imperative to controlling behavior and avoiding confusion or sending out mixed signals. You and your co-parent need to agree on a mutual set of rules, expectations and disciplinary actions regarding issues that may soon become relevant now that your child is a teenager. Such issues that need to be discussed (however much you’d rather not) include sexuality, substance and alcohol use, jobs, chores, and curfews. Academically this is also a defining moment for your teen; they need support and help as they may have to make decisions regarding what route of learning they wish to pursue. This can have career based repercussions, and both parents need to be united in their support and advice. You and your co-parent may not have the most amicable relationship, but in these areas, you need to have prior discussion and agreement so that you can put the needs of your teen first.
The same rules and privileges need to be adhered to in each house to make it clear that the parents are still in charge. Teens can be manipulating and will possibly try to play each parent off against the other if they spot cracks in your parenting team. Established guidelines on such previously mentioned topics as dating, curfews, and chores, as well as possibly phone use, driving restrictions, etc. can help make clear precisely what is expected in regards to these critical issues. It could be optimal to include a section on these life topics in your custody agreement and have both parents and teen sign this.
As young adults teens will naturally crave independence and control over their own lives, there needs to be no mistake as to who is in charge. That being said it’s impossible to know every single aspect of your teen’s life, giving a little trust and responsibility should help them develop into responsible adults. Over intrusiveness and violations of privacy will only help distance you from your child, information gained immorally will just prove to be difficult to approach without already starting at a disadvantage in the ensuing argument.
Aim for a happy medium. Respect any maturity shown and reward it with trust while keeping in mind the necessity of enforcing disciplinary action agreed upon with your fellow co-parent if necessary. Consistency is once again key; they need to feel like they have a similar level of independence whether they’re staying with mom or dad. Inconsistency will lead to manipulation.
Be willing to be creative and flexible with the schedule for your teen. Newly divorced parents need to set an example of a set schedule and gain a sense of normalcy during a new transitional phase for the family. Similarly, the focus above on consistency shouldn’t be overlooked regarding set rules. However, taking that all into consideration shouldn’t leave you thinking that a rigid, inflexible schedule is best. Teens often diversify in their sport and activity interests, their friend groups and social commitments. There will be times when they need flexibility in their schedule, and you can allow for this by considering a temporary custody agreement at least in regards to the calendar/schedule section of the agreement. Don’t get hung up on who’s evening it is with your teen if that gets in the way of their academic or sporting ambitions.
Your relationship with your co-parent should ideally be open including communication channels, don’t assume if your teen isn’t with you that they’re automatically with the other parent. Instill a sense of responsibility in your child, and extra freedom comes with additional responsibility that’s an important life lesson!
Teens can be reclusive, and it can feel as though you’re losing your connection with them, their views and interests change so quickly that it may seem like you hardly know them anymore. Remember how it was for you at that age, they can easily feel alienated, and divorce will only amplify that for them, empathize with them as they get used to the new co-parenting setup. Although their pastimes will vary and change, try to keep up, indulge and encourage them to give you something in common. Make contact often, text and calls can be used for this! No doubt they will be spending a lot of time on their phones at this age.
Lastly, parental alienation can sometimes become apparent during the teenage years. Don’t turn your teen against one parent; a stable, harmonious family is in the best interests of everyone involved. Try to ensure that a relationship is maintained with both co-parents; let this develop naturally as best you can.
Interested in setting up a parenting plan that works for both parties? Contact our San Diego divorce mediators for more information. Call (858) 736-2411 to schedule a free 45-minute consultation.