Guide to Co-Parenting Teens
Parenting a teenager is hard. Co-parenting a teenager is even harder. Not only are you navigating the changes in your teen, but you may need to re-evaluate the ways you are communicating with your co-parent.
Parenting a teenager is hard. Co-parenting a teenager is even harder. Not only are you navigating the changes in your teen, but you need to re-evaluate the ways you are communicating with your co-parent.
The teenage years are periods of emotional, intellectual, and physical growth for kids. According to KidsHealth.org
, teens will often “ announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behavior around their parents.” The need for independence is matched with a growing interest in what their peers think, which can lead them to testing limits and experimenting with new identities
The ability to establish ground rules between homes is not possible in all co-parenting relationships, but when it is, agreeing on different limits for your kids will ease their transition between houses. Setting a consistent curfew or policies about friends visiting the home will allow them to understand boundaries and can help to minimize potential arguments.
If boundaries and rules differ between homes, help them understand your reasoning and be firm in your decisions. By setting clear rules with unambiguous consequences, you can empower your teen to make their own decisions within these limits.
While rules might change, it is important that they respect them in both homes. In parallel parenting situations, for example, house rules vary, and this can be a potential source for arguments. Be consistent in your reasoning for your own rules and avoid discussing any disagreements you might have with your co-parents' rules in front of your teen.
Balance the elements of parenting and friendship by asking questions and showing interest in your teen’s life. Get to know their friends and take interest in their new hobbies. By having open conversations and taking a genuine interest in their lives, your kids will be more likely to share with you
Remember to ask open-ended questions and avoid those one-word grunts you might get after a long day at school.
With new driving permits and potential jobs, your teen will have increased freedom and a busy schedule. For them, this means more freedom and the ability to do more things on their own. For you and your co-parent, this means that time with your kids will decrease as they gain more independence.
Take advantage of quality time when it is available and accept that it will take more flexibility to coordinate an ever-changing schedule. Encourage your teens to keep you posted on where they are, who they are with, and when they will be home.
Security and attention continue to be important parts of a teen’s life. While your teen is living between two homes, create opportunities for bonding and connection when they are with you. This could include weekly ice cream nights or eating dinner together on a regular basis. These moments give you a chance to check in with your teen and to show them dedicated attention.
Be a Role Model
When it comes to raising teens, being able to practice what you preach plays a big part in the process. If you want your kids to communicate effectively, honestly, and openly, model these behaviors with your co-parent or spouse.
While your teen might roll their eyes if you start talking about when you were a teenager, these conversations can help them understand that the things they are experiencing are normal. If your child expresses concern or stress regarding an upcoming event, talk to them about times (using age-appropriate examples) you have felt the same thing and what you have done to help in those moments.
Mental and Physical Health
While physical and mental changes are a part of adolescence, both parents should be on the watch for dramatic or dangerous shifts. According to Healthychildren.org, these can include:
- Dramatic decline in grades or attendance
- Sudden disinterest in hobbies or extracurricular activities
- Talk about hurting themselves or others
- An extreme weight gain or loss
- Abrupt change in friends or social group
- Substance use or abuse
These concerns can be brought up with your child’s pediatrician or with the help of other professionals. Fostering open and honest lines of communication between yourself, your teen, and your co-parent can help to navigate more difficult topics or situations. Teachers, coaches, and school counselors can be great resources for insights because they see your child in different environments and are in tune with what happens during their day.
Yes, your teen has a smartphone and can communicate with you independently. This does not mean that your need to communicate with your co-parent is completely gone.
Teenagers may find ways to take advantage of a lack of communication and choose to be deceptive about their location or activities. Retain a shared calendar of events and information with your co-parent or communicate through a service like TalkingParents to keep your conversations in one place. Additionally, if your teen knows that you are in communication with their other parent, they are more aware of the boundaries that exist.
TalkingParents also gives co-parents the opportunity to communicate through messages, recorded calls, and an Info Library. These tools allow for coordination and reduce misunderstandings that can occur, which can reduce stress on your teen as well.