Perhaps your family faces a situation where the child or children of the family have two homes. The transition of moving from one home to the other can be difficult on the child and as they grow into their teen years, it can be both difficult and negatively advantageous at the same time. The best circumstance for all parties involved is to try to co-parent. As some of you read this, you may be feeling frustrated because co-parenting is not possible in your situation. In that case, our prayers are with you as that can be heartbreaking for the children as well as the parents. Continue to pray for peace over the circumstances and hopefully, with time, the hurt can settle and peace and forgiveness can enter into your situation.
For others who are able to peacefully co-parent, here are some items to consider. When children become teens, they begin to stretch their wings of independence. It is natural for them to begin to test boundaries and begin to venture out in the world. When a teen has two homes, there is no more important time than now to make sure all parents are on the same page. If not, often kids will use the non-communication to their advantage.
One thing parents may notice is that as kids are preparing to transition to their other home, they may begin to detach from you. They may begin making plans with friends for the upcoming days and determine you do not need to be part of the conversation because the other parent will be in charge. They may spend more time in their rooms and even become a bit agitated with you. This is likely not intentional however, they are just beginning to transition to their next home. No matter how much co-parenting happens, the households will be different and will run differently. This is a transition for your child each time they have to go back and forth. Remember this transition occurs when they come back to your home as well. It is often a good idea to leave the transition day as free of scheduled activities as possible. You may need to leave them time to be alone in their room, unpack their clothes and just get reacquainted with their space.
As you may know, it is important for parents to be aware of kids’ activities and who their friends are. If you are able to keep communication open with the other household, you will be able to compare notes on what you are seeing with your kids and their peers. It’s a good idea to have a parent meeting with both households to determine rules and consequences. Some items to consider when talking would be:
· Curfew during the week and on weekends
· Expectations of school, church and activities – for example, if grades begin to fall, what will be the consequence and how will both households work together in this area? If a teen seems less interested in going to youth group, what are the parents’ expectations? If the child wants to participate in sports and there is travel involved, who will travel when, etc.
· Cell phones, social media and video games – what are the expectations? Is there a charging station or is your teen allowed to have their phone in their room? What social media is acceptable and will it be monitored and how? What are you expectations for screen time and are there games you would prefer your teens do not play?
· Driving – what are the expectations in purchasing a car, paying for car insurance, car usage, etc.
· Allowance and Employment Expectations – Does your teen get an allowance and do you expect them to get a job?
· If a teen breaks rules at one home, what are the expectations with the other home to follow through on consequences
· Dating – when can your teen begin dating? What do you define as a date? When is it ok for group dating verses one on one?
· Remember to share successes! When your teen does something amazing, make sure both houses are aware and get to celebrate.
Parenting teens can be fun, awful, exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Working together with the other household is imperative and will help your teen be much more successful with boundaries in place. Remember, although there may be hurt from the past, it is important to set that aside and put the business of raising your teens first. Remember, you all have something very important in common: You love your kids and you want the best for them.
Remember, we are here for you. If you find that your situation is incredibly difficult and you need support, please call us. We are here to help sort through life’s challenges.
By Dondi Gesick, MA, LPCC
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