How Do We Parent After A Divorce?
Parenting a teen as a united team living in the same house is hard enough, but what happens when you’re co-parenting a tween or teen from two households?
Tweens and teens can have challenging behaviors that can create friction in harmonious households, adding the co-parenting after separation or divorce component can make it even more challenging.
At the same time, having the similar challenges can really bring people together, and it can create common ground on which to commiserate.
Here are some things to keep in mind that might help you through:
Divided We Fall: Kids try to play their parents against each other, even when their parents live together.
Staying in touch can help you get ahead of things (where it is safe and healthy to do so) and can keep conflict at bay as much as possible by being proactive.
Triangulation: Just because tweens and teens are old enough to relay messages, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy or fair to do so.
Take stock of whether you’re putting your child in an uncomfortable position. If a message would be better relayed directly by you, don’t involve the kids in the conversation.
Avoiding Scarcity Mindset: When your teen’s time is divided between two households, then starts to become even more limited as they pursue time with their peers or retreating to their room, it can be helpful to approach time together with intention.
It can feel like you don’t get as much time with them and that can be scary, but try the mindset that can ease that discomfort. “I don’t get enough time with my kid” can be reframed to “The time with my kid that I do get is meaningful and affirming.”
Screen time and devices: Personal electronic devices can be so helpful for allowing your tween or teen to have regular contact with their other parent. While staying in touch is important, having boundaries around when and how devices are used is still really reasonable.
Discuss those with your co-parent to let them know what the parameters will be on your parenting time so they can manage expectations. When expectations around technology are not agreed upon, your child will most likely pit parent against parent.
Share memories: These are exciting times, the fleeting years before they leave the nest. If you can work together to share photos and funny quotes from the years where your tween or teen are becoming their own person, it can be a really nice way to collaborate in building memories of your kids as they grow. It doesn’t have to be super formal, even if it’s an email or a text message (if welcomed.)
Practice good self-care: The teen and tween years can be stressful enough on their own and if your split was less than amicable, or if communication is difficult, that can add to the burden.
Make sure to take time for you in the midst of everything, because you can’t pour from an empty cup.
You might not be together anymore, but you still have a kid to finish supporting through adulthood. Families come in many shapes and sizes and the way we parent together and apart can change depending on life circumstances and each parent’s capacity.
While some situations are high conflict and maybe unsafe to attempt collaboration, where it is possible, it can really be a blessing for everyone involved.