Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law

How to make co-parenting teenagers easier

Co-parenting is much more common in California than it was just a decade ago. While sharing physical custody might benefit your child, you and your ex have to overcome different hurdles to make it work. Unfortunately, getting over those hurdles when you are co-parenting teenagers can be that much more difficult.

Even if it seems like your teen is mature for his or her age, it is important to remember that teenagers are still kids. After all, teenagers are not exactly known for their rational thinking or ability to control their emotions. You should keep this in mind if you are co-parenting or struggling with co-parenting.

Keep communicating with your ex

You did not get divorced so that you could keep talking to your ex-spouse regularly. However, you do not really have a choice since the two of you share a child. It might have taken a while to establish good communication skills, but that was when your kid was younger. Now that he or she is a teen, you expect to hear important information straight from the source.

Although your teen loves and trusts you, it can be hard to open up about difficult things like getting in trouble at school or having problems with friends. You will have no idea about any of this if these issues are primarily taking place at your ex's and the two of you are not talking very much. Instead of closing up the communication stop, revisit your preferred methods of updating each other on important issues.

Remember your parenting plan, but be flexible

Part of communicating with your ex is staying on the same page when it comes to the parenting plan, guidance and discipline. Being a teenager is hard. Providing consistent expectations -- including sticking to the parenting plan most of the time -- can make this tumultuous time of life a bit easier.

The teenage years can also be extremely busy. Your child has school, possibly hours of homework and extracurricular activities. On top of all of this, your teen still needs to find time for socializing with friends. Remember that it is okay to be flexible with the parenting plan. Even though your teen is still your child, this is the time for him or her to start learning responsibility through academic and social commitments, and refusing to be flexible can limit the ability to do so.

Remember that it is about your child

Raising a teenager is so very different than raising a younger child. Teenagers are on their way to becoming adults and are often eager to demonstrate just how responsible they are. This does not mean that you can slack off when it comes to co-parenting. Your teen needs support and guidance from both of his or her parents, perhaps now more than ever.

Maybe you divorced when your kid was still young and his or her needs have changed since then. Or it could be that the parenting plan you created for your teen does not work anymore. Whether you need to modify or enforce your current agreement, it is best to take action sooner rather than later. Co-parenting teenagers usually gets harder before it gets better, so you should seek help from a lawyer who understands how California family law works.

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