When divorcing parents have teens, they too often make the mistake of not giving much thought to their parenting plan. They work out the custody schedule to determine where their child will sleep on which nights and how they’ll divide their time during school breaks. However, they may think not much else is needed.
Even if your teen is so independent and busy that it seems like you rarely see them, they still need their parents to be part of their lives every day – at least until they go off to college. Now more than ever, they need to see that their parents are still paying attention to them and still together as a parenting team even if they can no longer live together.
What should you include?
First, it’s crucial to have as much consistency as possible across your homes. Part of being a teen is testing boundaries. That’s why you should both have the same rules and expectations – at least as much as possible. That means the same curfew and the same rules about taking the car and dating. Codify these in your parenting plan. If you can’t agree on everything, at least enforce your rules in your home.
Even teens who’ve never gotten in trouble can “go off the rails” if their parents become consumed with their divorce. They’re likely facing some level of peer pressure around drugs, alcohol and sex. They need their parents as much as ever – if not more.
What input should your child have?
It’s typically best when teens have some input in the custody schedule and even the parenting plan. This can give them some sense of control over their lives when they may feel like they have none. If it’s possible to craft a schedule that doesn’t force your child to quit their part-time job or any of their extracurricular activities or significantly inconvenience them, that’s what you should work toward.
You and your co-parent will have to work together over the next few years as your child learns to drive, has their first serious relationship, applies to colleges and more. If you can work together on a parenting plan that places your teen’s best interests at the forefront, you’ll be better prepared to maneuver these milestones. Having experienced legal guidance helps.