Being a parent is rewarding in so many different ways, but it also has plenty of challenges. From toddler tantrums to preteen drama, you have had no shortage of hurdles to clear. Things are different now, though. Not only is your child a teenager, but your divorce is making things even more complicated for both of you.
You are not powerless in this situation. In fact, you have the ability to make things easier for both you and your teen. By effectively co-parenting with your ex-spouse, you can create an environment in which he or she can thrive.
Maybe you and your ex were not great at communicating or finding common ground toward the end of your marriage, but that does not mean you should stay on that path. Communication is key to any good co-parenting relationship, especially when there are teenagers involved. Teens need consistent expectations, rules and guidance from both parents. Taking the extra step to establish acceptable lines of communication with your teen’s other parent will give him or her that consistency.
Those open lines of communication are also important for when your teen pushes back against expectations and rules. This is because the vast majority of teens will test boundaries, which is a normal part of growing up. If you and your ex can communicate in a responsible manner, then you can be sure that you are both aware of any of these behaviors and are responding similarly.
Flexibility is key
Your child’s life is probably a lot more complicated than it was in elementary or even middle school. New extracurricular activities, part-time jobs and even friends are constantly changing his or her schedule and obligations. This is on top of the heavier homework load that most middle and high school students have.
If you refuse to be flexible with your parenting schedule, your child might miss out on important opportunities. This means sometimes letting him or her sleep at your ex’s house on what is supposed to be your night. Or maybe you will need to pick him or her up late or on a different day after a work schedule change. Being open to changes as needed will let your teen know that you care about the details of his or her life.
Foster your relationship
Divorce is almost never easy, but the negative impact on parent-child relationships can be especially disheartening. If you agree to co-parent with your ex, but then refuse to communicate or be flexible, you are hurting your teen — not your ex. Remember, it should always be about your child’s best interests and not your own feelings.
If creating an effective co-parenting agreement feels impossible, you are not alone. It can be difficult to imagine a future where you work well with your ex while you are also actively going through a divorce. Do not let this hold you back from making sure that your teenager’s best interests are fully respected. Instead, you should be sure to work alongside an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable in Minnesota family law.