A child’s needs and best interests change as they age. Parents know this and must adjust their parenting style accordingly. However, divorced parents may also have to modify their co-parenting plan to meet their child’s changing needs – especially as their child enters their teen years.
Parenting a teenager can be challenging at any time, regardless of whether parents are divorced or not. Here are a few important factors co-parents should consider when they restructure their parenting strategies for their teen.
Give them independence, but still make the rules clear
The teenage years are generally when children begin to understand their place in the world. They want to become their own person, which often translates to yearning for more independence from their family.
Therefore, teenagers will often spend more time with their friends and engage in more extracurricular activities. Co-parents should communicate and determine:
- How much independence they will grant their child;
- The flexibility of their schedules and parenting time; and
- Their expectations for their child as they gain more responsibility.
However, co-parents should still ensure they agree on and enforce rules that protect their child’s best interests, such as establishing a curfew for teenagers in both households. After all, teenagers may want independence, but they still thrive on stability at home.
Review the custody schedule
When both children and parents have hectic personal schedules, the custody schedule might no longer meet the family’s needs. Co-parents should regularly revisit their schedule to make sure it works for everyone.
In some cases, as children age, parents might wish to consider their child’s input as well. North Carolina law allows children to express a preference in certain situations, but parents can proactively involve children in the process to establish a schedule and arrangement that works best for the whole family.
It is critical that both parents continue to focus on what is best for their child. Therefore, they must:
- Continue making decisions in the child’s best interests;
- Avoid arguing with or speaking ill of the other parent in front of children; and
- Collaborate to provide children with the support they need.
Readjusting the parenting plan does not have to be complex. As long as parents are willing to communicate and agree to put their child’s best interests first, then they can deal with the changes life brings effectively.