Raising a teenager is a challenging experience. That experience is often even more challenging if you are divorced. On top of helping your teen navigate their new freedoms, responsibilities and high school pressure, you will also have to deal with child custody. Co-parenting a teenager can present some unique hurdles.
Co-parenting a teenager is not necessarily more difficult than raising a younger child after divorce, but it is certainly different. Communication with your ex might even be more important than ever before. You also might struggle to draw the line between normal teenage behavior and behavior that is an indicator of a problem. Here are a few tips for successfully co-parenting your teenager.
Be consistent, but flexible
Like most children, teenagers generally feel better when they have a sense of stability. This means that regardless of what else is going on, it is important for you to provide consistent expectations and guidance to your teen. Even if you and your ex have different household rules, consistency in both homes is still beneficial.
That consistency does not have to be rigid, though. Adolescence is a time when many teenagers get their first real tastes of freedom, and it is important that they learn how to deal with it. Rather than sticking rigidly to your parenting plan and schedule, consider listening to what your teen is asking for. Being flexible can be a good idea if he or she would like to spend time with friends or has a new afterschool commitment.
Communication is key
Now that your child is older and taking on more responsibility, you probably assume that he or she will start opening up to you more. You might even feel relieved when your teen does not mention any problems at school or with friends. Unfortunately, just because they are not talking about it does not mean that it is not happening.
This is why communication is so important for effective co-parenting. Your ex should be able to fill you in on important information regarding your teen, and vice versa. Communication should not stop once you feel like your child is old enough to relay his or her own information. Even though you are divorced, co-parenting still takes two involved parents.
The teen years will not last forever
Like other parents in Kentucky, you might find yourself counting down the days until your child is old enough to head off to college. However, that time often comes sooner than most parents anticipate. While you might not look back fondly on the co-parenting part of your teenager's high school years, you will probably still reminisce about their adolescence. Remembering those years can feel even better when you had a good co-parenting relationship.
Co-parenting a teenager might not come naturally, though. Whether you previously had a good co-parenting relationship when your child was younger or if you just recently divorced, you should carefully consider whether your current child custody arrangement is still effective. You do not have to do this alone, though. An experienced attorney should be able to better explain your options for enforcing a current custody order or petitioning for a needed modification.