Co-parenting teenagers is challenging -- you can make it easier

With divorce in the future, you may have already tried to find information about co-parenting after divorce. If you have, you probably noticed that much of the information and advice centers around younger children. Since your kids are teenagers, that info is not much help. When it comes to co-parenting teenagers, things are different.

Unlike babies, toddlers and school-aged children, teenagers have unique needs. They are transitioning from childhood to adulthood and have new senses of responsibility and freedom. Parenting a teen through these changes can be difficult enough, but it may feel especially daunting after divorce. Here is how you can make this period of life easier for both you and your child.

Keep working with your ex

You got divorced for a reason, and it probably was not so you could keep in regular contact with your ex. However, since co-parenting requires coordinating and working with one another, you worked hard to maintain communication. Now that your child is a teen, communication may feel less important. You might assume that your teen will pass on relevant information to either you or his or her other parent, but teens are not exactly known for sharing things with their parents.

When something significant occurs in your child's life, you should communicate that information with your ex. You should also share any concerning or unusual behaviors. Just because your teen acts one way at your house does not mean he or she is exhibiting the same behavior everywhere.

Be flexible with the parenting schedule

Managing your teenager's academic and social obligations was a lot easier when he or she was younger. Now, keeping up with your child's homework, after-school activities, friends and even part-time jobs is a much bigger task. At times, your parenting schedule will interfere with these other obligations.

Your first instinct might be to rigidly stick to the parenting plan. This can have a negative effect on your teen's life, and he or she may feel unsupported. If you and your ex-spouse effectively maintain open communication, you should be able to agree to a certain level of flexibility. This means you might have to switch nights or pick up your child at a different time than originally planned. In the long run, this can benefit you and your teen's relationship.

Stay actively involved

Your teen needs a bit of freedom and responsibility, and you are happy to give him or her space to explore these important experiences. This does not mean that you should completely step back. Rather than assuming where your child will be or who his or her friends are, be sure to ask questions and follow up with your ex when necessary.

If you are going through the divorce process as the parent of a teenager, you need guidance from someone who understands that co-parenting teenagers is a unique experience. On the other hand, you may have created your custody agreement when your child was young, and it no longer applies to your situation. In Arizona, you can go back to court to modify your agreement so that it reflects the current best interests of your teenager.

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