Making it work, Tips & Lists

Co-parenting Teens: Fostering Independence with Guidance

For those who are co-parenting a teenager, here are a handful of tips to guide you with the drafting of a parenting plan for the teenage years.
(2 min 52 sec read)

Debra Carter
Dr. Carter is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator, and a Parent Coordinator.

For those who are co-parenting a teenager, here are a handful of tips to guide you with the drafting of a parenting plan. It’s a whole new world, trying to learn the ins and outs of the teenager.

Teenagers are preparing to leave home during these years. School, friends, and work will likely come before family. Teens want privacy, they want to make their own decisions. As a parent and especially one in a co-parenting relationship, you’ll need to balance the teen’s need for guidance versus their need for independence. It is important that you both remain the parents. The rules will change, of course, as your teen proves they are able to handle more complicated situations. Your younger children may complain that their teenage sibling gets to do more than they do. “That’s right,” you will tell them. “The rules change as you earn the right for them to change.”

It is also important to remind teens of how important family life is. Teens will want to be active with friends, but they’ll still need to make time for family. This is a good time to involve your teen in talks about time-sharing, when he/she would like to spend time with each parent, and family plans. Teens will need guidance in the areas of emotions and morals. Teens often don’t understand their own feelings or behaviors and need help sorting them out. Their moral code, or their sense of what is right and what is wrong, is also still developing. Understand that your guidance will most likely not be asked for or appreciated but giving it is still your job. The satisfying part of parenting is watching your teen grow into a responsible adult.

Consider this mother’s experience:

“When my daughter was 20, she had a summer job as a nanny/tutor for three very active young boys, all under ten years old. One day she called me out of the blue and said, “Mom, do you remember the time you were telling me to do my summer reading and do my math workbook, and I rolled my eyes, called you mean and stupid, and ran upstairs and slammed my bedroom door? Well, I called to apologize. One of the boys did that to me today, and I could barely stop myself from smacking him in the face. Only the memory of you being so calm with me got me through. Thanks for being a great mom.” Now that’s the gift of parenting that gives back.

Here are some issues to watch for at this stage:

  • Sexual acting-out
  • Fighting, name-calling, picking fights
  • Fearful of dating
  • Feeling embarrassed about changes in the family
  • Worried about money and how the family will get along due to the divorce
  • Feeling rejected and neglected

Parents at this stage should do the following:

  • Show and tell your teens that you love them.
  • Set rules, and keep them. Adapt older rules so they are age-appropriate.
  • Have adult friends of your own so you don’t use your child as a friend.
  • Let your teens know it is okay to be different from you.
  • Let your teens know it is okay to love both parents after the divorce.

Tips for parenting older teens:

  • Be aware of the adolescent’s need to be consulted, informed, and involved when making the schedule and family plans.
  • When setting parenting times and schedules, take into consideration school demands, job hours, automobile access, as well as extracurricular and social activities.
  • Remember that adolescents need to balance independent social time with peers and meaningful family time.


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