Like most parents in Minnesota, you never really thought that parenting your teenager would be all that easy. In fact, you were probably prepared to meet the ups and downs of the teenage years. However, maybe you did not anticipate how divorce would make things a lot more complicated. Whether you divorced only recently or when your kids were younger, co-parenting a teenager is a serious challenge.
Teenagers spend their last few years at home establishing their own identities, pushing boundaries, and exploring both social and romantic relationships. Many teens think they should have a say in how their lives go, including which parent’s house they spend the night at. Of course, you are still the parent, so you set the rules, but those rules might have to adjust to fit your teen’s changing needs.
It is time to get flexible
You strictly adhered to the custody plan when your child was younger, only making exceptions when it was truly necessary. Now, your teen is moving around on his or her own, maybe even stopping in at your ex’s house on days he or she is supposed to be with you. He or she could even decide it is just easier to stay put for the night. This is frustrating for sure, but it is also okay to let it go.
This is because your child is involved in a lot more these days. From wider social groups and new friends to after school activities and even part-time jobs, teens have a lot going on these days. Plus, all these things are piled on top of the daily pressures of high school. Being flexible in stressful situations can not only make the teen years a little bit easier, but it can also strengthen your parent-child relationship.
Stay involved and keep talking
Your teen is fiercely independent and insists that he or she can handle everything. Why bother going to that Friday night football game or even asking how school was? Sure, it might feel as if he or she is pushing you away, but regular involvement and open communication are key to healthy co-parenting relationships.
For example, your teen might readily open up to his or her other parent but not to you. How would you ever really know what is going on with him or her? Honestly, you would not. This can really damage your relationship even outside the teenage years. It also makes it easier for your teen to control which parent has access to what information.
Remember, your teen is still a kid
It does not matter how much your teen tries to act like an adult; he or she is still a kid. You need to be actively involved, providing consistent expectations, guidance and, yes, even a bit of flexibility. The hard work that you and your ex put in during this time will pay off in the long run.
This is not to say that co-parenting a teenager is a breeze as long as you stay flexible and open to talking. All kinds of issues can arise during those years, many of which are not easy. Nevertheless, you can certainly do your best to make it easier with your custody plan. If it is time to modify your custody plan or you are creating one for the first time, do not do it alone. Get the help of an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process.