Parenting a teenager isn't easy under the best of circumstances. When your family is going through difficult transitions, such as a divorce, that can lead to incredibly difficult behaviors from the teenagers in your family.
Although as a parent you want to do everything you can for your children, it is common for parents going through a divorce to forget how hard it may be on older children. You may expect them to take care of younger siblings or to handle the whole situation with grace to keep you from dealing with any additional stress.
While it is reasonable to hope that your children will avoid any major outbursts or behavior issues stemming from the divorce, you and your ex may want to take a proactive approach to addressing common issues seen in teenagers during and after divorce in order to be better co-parents.
Keeping your rules consistent will make them easier to enforce
It is common for teenagers to test boundaries with their loved ones. If you and your ex don't agree on critical issues for parenting your teens, they will use that disagreement to their own advantage. There are many areas in which a teenager can act out during and after a divorce. These could include:
- Changing the way they dress or do their hair
- Changing their social circle
- Starting to date people you find questionable
- Breaking curfew
- Skipping school
- Focusing more on sports than grades
- Losing themselves in video games or online for hours
When you create a parenting plan, do more than just outline when you're going to exchange custody with your ex. Also spend some time talking about problematic behaviors that teenagers have and your expectations for your own teams. Agree on a curfew. Agree on terms for dating and grade expectations.
Set down in writing how many hours a week or per day your team can have access to the internet or video games. Having standardized rules makes it easier for your teen to follow them. It also makes it easier for you and your ex to enforce them.
Focus on making this transition as easy as possible for your kids
The dissolution of the primary family unit is a traumatic event for children of any age. However, you and your ex can minimize the stress your children experience in the divorce by choosing to talk about your issues with one another, and not with the children.
Keeping the conflict away from your kids isn't always easy, but it can make things much less traumatizing for them. If it's possible, talk with your ex as soon as you know divorce is inevitable and try to keep the focus on your children throughout the entire process. If you can informally agree to do that, then chances are good that your children will benefit from that maturity on your part.