Children this age, 15 to 18 years, are preparing to become independent and self-sufficient young adults. This is guidance on establishing a Parenting Plan for your older adolescent child.

It is necessary for them to have a gradual and healthy separation from both parents. These adolescents are making decisions about how they want to be and where they want their lives to go. They will establish their own sense of self with regard to rules and behaviors, taking into consideration the family, the peer group, and their community standards. Adolescents are developing their own personal standards. They have developed strong and lasting relationships with both boys and girls. Appearance and “fitting in” continue to be important. Closer groups begin to form that have something in common.

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By late adolescence, they have begun to view their parents as individuals with qualities they both like and dislike. They begin to figure out how that may affect who they are and who they want to be. The peer group has great impact on choices that they make. Children are particularly vulnerable to changes in the family and pressure from outside the family. Maintaining stability and consistency can be challenging as an adolescent’s feelings are often changeable and intense.

Increased schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and jobs become important. Many students begin to focus on future goals such as work, further education, or other post-high-school plans. The freedom to set their own schedule (both between households and about driving, curfews, dating, and overnights) becomes a priority. Parents should be aware of a teenager’s efforts to be in control while the teenager’s judgment and experience is still limited. The driver’s license adds freedom which increases the need for trust, communication, and accountability.

This is a “practice” for their being out on their own, so it becomes a period of teaching and learning. They need the opportunity to make plans while the parents maintain age-appropriate guidelines and structure. Privileges come with responsibilities. Compromise is encouraged when conflicts arise between the wishes of adolescents and their parents, including conflicts regarding the contact schedule.

When designing a plan for your older adolescent, remember:

  •  Adolescents do well with a variety of parenting plans.
  •  Parents need to be aware of the adolescent’s need to be consulted, informed, and involved when making the schedule and making family plans.
  •  Parenting times and schedules will need to take into consideration school demands, job hours, automobile access, and extra-curricular and social activities.
  •  Adolescents need to balance time between independent social time with peers and meaningful family time.

About Debra Carter

Dr. Carter is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist. She is also a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator and a Parent Coordinator. She is Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Director of the National Cooperative Parenting Center (NCPC) offering a wide spectrum of services to the Mental Health and Legal Communities as well as to families and children who are struggling with divorce related issues. She is, a frequent expert to the court, and an international speaker, lecturer and trainer on parenting in divorce. She is a consultant to the US Department of State in matters of international child custody.

Dr. Carter is the leader in the development of standardized Parental Responsibility Guidelines emphasizing the needs of children in divorce, which have been adopted and endorsed by the court. She has received numerous awards including the the prestigious “John E. Van Duzer Distinguished Service Award” from the International Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.

Her work can be found through Unhooked Books: