It is important for divorced parents both to put aside animosity toward each other and have a flexible outlook when developing the parenting plan. Flexibility is needed because the needs of kids change as they grow older. If you have children of various ages, somewhat different plans may be in order. The teen years bring particular challenges for such plans, but an experienced family lawyer can help.
Consistency and Transitions
Any expert in family therapy will tell you that children thrive on consistency. While both parents may have differing outlooks on child rearing, it is important to maintain rules and expectations in both homes for the children. Communication between the parents can prove effective, as can a mediator who can help establish common ground. Teenage children also like to feel they are included in rule making, and will be more likely to “buy into” rules for which they have helped establish. They will feel it is fairer.
Among the most challenging aspects of shared parenting is the actual movement from one home environment to the other. Transitions are very important. It is useful to coordinate such times with the end or beginning of a school week, or during a time that does not disrupt the child’s extracurricular activities.
The Teenager’s Desire for Independence
The teenage years are, of course, a period of movement toward greater independence. As such, teenagers will want to feel that seeing parents is in accordance with their own wishes and needs. Teenagers do still very much need parental involvement, despite what they may say at times. They also may become judgmental toward one parent whom they realize has fewer financial resources than the other. This is because they tend to have a myopic view of the world: everything is seen in terms of their own needs.
Teenagers will also want to have more time with friends. It is very important that parents set up very clear ground rules for such visits, especially if they or friends have a car. One effective method is to have the teenagers help write up a contract that both you and they sign.