When we think of children in the context of divorce, we tend to think of little kids ranging from babies to pre- adolescents. Many children, however, are well into their teens by the time their parents divorce. There is some advantage in divorcing when the children are teenagers since most kids gain greater insight into love, relationships and the state of their parents' marriage as they get older, but the teenage brain is still immature and impulsive. In fact, adolescent brains have been scientifically proven to be deficient in the areas that monitor focus and self-control, when compared to the brain of an adult. In short, a teenager can go from being cool and collected about your divorce one day, and the next day, fly into a rage about having to back and forth between two homes.
Parents are constantly challenged by the fine line between disciplining and protecting their teens, versus the need to foster their independence. Sharing custody complicates the issue, especially if your child has strong opinions about one or both of you, or attempts to use the split arrangement to his or her advantage. While it's painful to admit that your child is exploiting your situation, keep in mind that this type of behavior is not abnormal in adolescents. As children develop higher thought processes, they are also influenced by vices such as greed, vanity and lust, along with a keen desire to fit in with their peers. Most teenage kids go through a period of testing and manipulating their parents, but setting consistent rules for both households on things like curfews, dating and school work can go a long way towards nipping these issues in the bud.
On the other hand, teenagers need to be given trust and freedom in order to thrive. Most teens are involved in extra-curricular activities, which are important for future endeavors like college admissions. As mentioned before, they're also very focused on their friendships, to the point where it may seem like you don't have enough time with them. You should not to take this personally, since friendships are the most important thing in any teenager's life. Family time, such as attending birthday parties or going to church on Sundays is reasonable, but dictating every minute of their day-to-day schedule is unrealistic, as well as unhealthy.
Another reasonable expectation in most custody agreements is open communication when it comes to the children. Depending on the seriousness of the problem, you and your ex may need to consider alternate arrangements and professional help professional help from a therapist. It may also be a good idea to speak to an attorney about modifications to your custody agreement. No matter what action you take, the important thing is to remain consistent, and stress to your child that you are a united front as parents, even if you are no longer married. For more information about custody arrangements for teenage children, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.