Teenagers are balancing on the thin line between childhood and maturity, and because our own teen years are so far behind us, it’s usually very difficult to relate to their problems. Raising a teenager is never easy, but when divorced or separated, it gets even tougher. You end up constantly worrying about the effects of the divorce or break-up on your teen, and often spend too much time arguing with your ex over parenting styles and rules. We will try and help ease the process by sharing a few expert tips on co-parenting a teenager with your ex, especially if your marriage or relationship ended on bad terms.
Present a United Front
When married, or cohabiting, parents should always present themselves as a unit so that children can’t manipulate them individually and pit them against each other. When divorced, you have to remember that you still share a child, and still have to remain a single unit in that sense. Set down strict guidelines about curfews, rules, chores, etc. and make sure each parent follows them. Don’t try to be the favorite parent, or play good-cop-bad-cop. That’s allows room for manipulation, and may also lead your teenager to develop separate identities for both their homes.
Encourage Love for the Other Parent
Don’t badmouth your ex or let your teenager do so. If your child wants to spend a weekend with his father instead of at your place, let it happen without resenting either your teen or your ex. Encourage your kid to remain a big part of your ex’s life as well as yours. Don’t let them alienate the other parent, because they may end up blaming you later on if their relationship with their mom/dad deteriorates. Always try to remember that it was your relationship with your ex that ended, not your child’s, and so, when it comes to your children, be amicable towards each other.
Don’t Treat Your Teen as an Adult
Understandably, marital breakdown can leave a huge psychological impact on you, and of course you need someone to talk to. But don’t let your teenager become your confidante, because even though he or she may be taking all of this on with maturity, a teenager is not an adult. You can’t weigh them down with this emotional trauma, or turn them against their other parent, because they are emotionally and psychologically fragile. Teenagers, even those who come from tight-knit families, are struggling to find themselves, and are usually unsure of their identities; confiding in them the way you would to a friend or shrink may shape them and mold them in ways neither of you expected. All your teenager needs from you is support, guidance, and unconditional love.
If you suspect that your teenager is engaging in illegal or unsafe behavior in order to deal with the new family situation, you may need to sit down and have a proper discussion with your ex, and then seek counseling with a therapist who specializes in working teens and their families. Don’t forget that both of you love your child equally, and only want what’s best for them. Don’t let your feelings towards your ex cloud your judgment, and have adverse effects on your teen.