I have had some conversations recently about how challenging it is to raise teenagers. Another layer to the challenge is when parents are raising teenagers in separate households. Co-parenting teenagers presents a completely different set of challenges than children of other ages.
The Unapologetic Art of Effectively Co-Parenting Teenagers
In this article:
- Present a United Front
- Prepare for the Social Butterflies
- Don’t Give In
- Be Consistent with Discipline
Teenagers are growing into young adults and they are deciding what their priorities are and how to deal with the life changes they are going through.
Naturally, this is a difficult time for parents in an ideal situation. But, it can be incredibly tough when children are going from home to home and learning two sets of values and getting differing directions. Here are some thoughts on what parents should consider in co-parenting situations while raising teenagers:
Parents who are co-parenting teenagers may be re-married with a different set of values. Or, they may simply have a difference in opinion on what is important for them to teach their child. One of the most important concessions to make is to agree to work together. When it comes to major decisions, they must show a united front to the child.
Teenagers are learning to test boundaries. They will purposefully see what they can get away with if you allow them. In a co-parenting situation, teenagers aren’t afraid to manipulate situations to see what can work to their advantage. When co-parents communicate and present a united front, they often get better results.
Discipline, direction, and expectations are key to co-parenting. When children know they can’t play one parent against another, or leverage one parent over another, they operate differently.
Children begin to spread their wings as they develop into young adulthood. Some of these teenagers’ social calendars fill more quickly than ours do as adults. There are team sports, dances, movies, and spending time with peers which are going to supersede some of the time we used to spend with our child.
It’s important to show we trust them to grow and it’s equally important we show we trust them in both households. If one parent is incredibly restrictive and the other parent is allowing the child some space, the child is going to do everything to get out of their cocoon and get to the space.
We want our children’s trust and we want them to know we have their best interest at heart. While we will continue to have boundaries with both parents, it’s imperative that both parents allow them the space they need to grow, make mistakes and learn about life.
Don’t Give In
It’s true that kids need space to grow, but it is also true that parents know best. In co-parenting situations, children will show they are capable of overstepping legitimate boundaries. Do not give in. First and foremost, you want to protect them from potentially dangerous or threatening situations.
You still know best. There are times when they think they are “growing” but you know it’s a bad situation or something that could be to their detriment.
Co-parents have to remember, although they are not together, they are united in the fact they are the last line of defense against the world and the challenges a young mind may not be aware of.
Consistent with Discipline
If a teenager has to be disciplined in one home, the terms and conditions should transfer with their visit to the other parent. This is not about how we feel, it’s about how we address our children’s behavior.
If a teen knows the parent in the other household is not going to hold a standard of discipline, they will definitely take advantage of it. We want to remain loving, but firm in these situations.
The right attitude is paramount to helping a child understand that in life we have consequences to our actions and those consequences are to be dealt with until complete.
Co-parenting teenagers is not an easy task. It can be done with clear communication between co-parents and the child as well as remembering to sacrifice our feelings and egos as parents and put the long-term needs of the child first.
BMWK, what other suggestions do you have for co-parenting teens?
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on October 2 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.