Teenage years are exceptionally busy and emotionally taxing for parents and their evolving children. Flexibility and communication are crucial to uphold authority when accommodating custody arrangements. Especially when mom and dad are shuttling teens between dual households and making their major life decisions.
There are multiple schedules to juggle and conflicting interests to consider when honoring those agreements. Your marriage might be over, but you still are on the same team when it comes to helping your child or children succeed. There are constructive ways to achieve that shared goal.
Tips for staying on message
Parents with shared-custody plans should collaborate and enforce consistent rules under separate roofs, such as curfew, dating, screen time and driving. If mom has grounded junior from the phone, dad should honor the punishment. Here are some other tips to help prevent conflict:
- Treat the new dynamic as a business relationship. Keep a professional line of communication when disciplining or educating your son or daughter.
- Keep your child out of parental conversations. Using your child to relay messages is unfair to them and can fuel resentments.
- Develop your support network. Do not air grievances with your ex-spouse to your child and risk relitigating the divorce. Save that for your friends or therapist.
- Build online calendars. Limit face-to-face encounters by staying connected via text messaging or social media.
- Balance visitations. One parent cannot be the fun one who takes everyone to fancy restaurants and amusement parks while the other is stuck serving leftovers and barking about unfinished chores and homework.
- Be flexible. Medical decisions, large purchases and college choices are negotiable, but do not waste time and energy arguing about taking baths in one household or showers in the other.
- Keep each other updated. Sporting events and activities shift, so share what you have learned about your child’s schedules, friendship circles and interests.
Teenagers need structure because they will challenge boundaries. So do their parents. Disagreements are normal between married couples, let alone divorced spouses. Successful co-parenting rests on the bedrock of mutual respect and compromise.
Divorce is a parental burden that your children should not have to bear. Both of you should emphasize your love and assure your son or daughter it was not their fault. Now is not the time to go soft to win their affection.
Remember, this is about doing what is best for your child, not earning a win against your former spouse. Your most important duty is to be their parents, not their friends.