Tips for co-parenting through the teen years
The teen years are challenging for all parents. This is the time when kids start spending less time with their families and test their boundaries. For divorced parents, raising a teen across two households can be particularly difficult.
One psychologist recommends that divorced parents focus on three things to help them successfully co-parent their teen: Friends, family and flexibility.
Friends: When kids enter high school and get into new groups and extracurricular activities, they’ll make new friends. It can be hard to get to know them all. However, it’s wise for parents to meet the kids your child is spending time with. This helps you spot potential bad influences. It can also help you stay in the loop about what kinds of things interest your teen.
If your teen is spending more time with friends, that’s only natural. Between that time away from home and the time spent with their co-parent, you may feel like you never see your teen. However, don’t make them feel guilty for preferring to be with their friends than with you.
Family: Most teens do still want to spend time with their families, whether they admit it or not. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make your home someplace they want to be.
Make sure you’re aware of what’s going on in your teen’s life. Don’t assume that your co-parent is aware of any problems and will tell you. Communication between parents living separately is more crucial than ever so that issues don’t get overlooked.
Flexibility: Once your teen starts driving, you may start losing control over the parenting plan. Your teen may decide to spend Sunday night at their other parent’s place and go to school from there the next day rather than come home. Maybe they have a soccer game near your co-parent’s house on Saturday morning, so they drive over Friday night.
If you can agree to some flexibility around your parenting time schedule, your co-parent will likely reciprocate. More importantly, it will make things easier for your child. Don’t completely let the schedule go by the wayside, though. If changes to your teen’s life necessitate a modification to that schedule, it’s best to put those changes in writing. You may both want to sit down with your teen and let them have some input. Your family law attorney can help you put a modified parenting time schedule in place.