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Co-Parent Your Teen More Effectively

by Lori Sciame | August 19th, 2011 | Teens

Parenting a teen in a shared custody situation can be difficult even in the best of circumstances; however, if the relationship between the parents remains strained after the divorce, optimal parenting can truly suffer. Sadly, some parents refuse to put the interest of the child first, by failing to work with his or her ex on determining a “common ground” in regards to rules for their teen.

Consider this scenario:

A 14-year-old girl spends one week with her father, where there are no rules. She can stay up all night, she doesn’t have any chores, and she pretty much fends for herself. Her dad cares for her by doing her laundry, having food in the house, and by taking her to school functions, yet he basically lets her run her own life.

On Sunday at 5:00 PM, the girl transfers her belongings to her mother and step-father’s house. While there for a week, she has a set bedtime, she must contribute to the household by doing a few chores, and she shares meals and conversation with her mom and step-dad. Her mother, like the father, does her laundry, and takes her places, but she is definitely more “hands on” than the father.

Both sets of parents love the girl very much, yet because they do not work together on parenting issues, such as bedtimes and responsibilities, the girl is continually faced with mixed messages. Expectations between the two households sometimes confuse the teen to such a degree, that she sometimes feels alone and overwhelmed.

As an adult, I’m sure you can see how difficult this situation would be for a child to cope with. If you have a custody arrangement similar to this, take the time to think about how you can put your teen first when it comes to co-parenting.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Acknowledge to your child that the situation he or she is in must be difficult.
No one can truly understand what a child of divorce feels unless the parent has been through a similar situation. Let your teen know you are proud of how well they make the transition between houses, and how well they adapt to each home. Tell them you appreciate the extra effort it takes for them to pack and to unpack.

2. Allow for a few hours of “decompression” when your child arrives.
Changing to accommodate a new set of rules can be difficult for adults, so can you imagine how hard it must be for a teen to switch gears between homes? Be gentle. Don’t yell. Give them a few hours to remember the rules at your house.

3. Reassure your teen that your home is always his or her home – not just on “your week.”
A child needs to know they are loved. You can do this by stating that your home is open for them whenever it is needed, not just at convenient times.

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