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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Divorce & Custody with Teens & Pre-Teens
Co-Parenting a Teen after Divorce
I am very concerned about my 15-year-old daughter's health. She currently is on a terrible sleep pattern - stays up much of the night and doesn't emerge until mid-afternoon. I realize it's summer, but she was on a terrible sleep pattern when in school this past spring as well, where she would nap for 3-4 hours after school, stay up really late, get up for school, and repeat. Her doctor is concerned as well, and wants our daughter not only to get back to a regular sleep pattern, take vitamins, and get more exercise, but also wants her to get some counseling. I couldn't agree more.
My husband and I are at the tail end of a divorce. Our daughter lives one week with me, one week with him, back and forth. We have always parented very differently, which is a large part of why we divorced - we are so very different. In a nutshell, I am the boundaries & consequences (bad cop) parent and my ex is the nearly anything goes (good cop) parent.
My ex believes that he gets to parent how he wants when our daughter is with him and that I get to parent how I want when she is with me. I don't believe that. I believe we should be doing what is in our daughter's best interest, and give her a consistent message/support around that. Which brings me back to the fact that my ex and I just don't agree on 90% of parenting issues...including what is in our daughter's best interest, unfortunately.
How do those of you who are divorced and are co-parenting deal with this kind of thing? And do you have any advice for me? My ex refuses to go to a counselor who specializes in co-parenting issues (or any counselor at this point, actually). If I impose rules that I feel are important (e.g., time limits on the computer and the like), then I become the bad cop again. When that happens, my daughter plays the custody card and threatens to go to court to live full-time with her dad. Mind you, when she gets mad at him, she does the same in reverse, wanting to live with me full time. Yes, she needs counseling...but she refuses to go. divorce didn't solve the co-parenting issues!
I think you have to take the long view here. There is today's battle over sleep and boundaries. And then there is your long-term goal of raising a responsible, self-reliant person with whom you have a solid relationship. It takes years to get there, and you have to choose your battles and ignore/let go of some small stuff on the way. Have hope and patience.
It sounds like your daughter may be getting enough sleep, even if the pattern is extremely irritating. She does nap in the afternoons. I have kids in the 15-23 range, and it is pretty typical for them to be night owls. My kids all will sleep until noon at every opportunity, despite having hugely different personalities (and some are foster kids who came to me in their teens). It irritates the heck out of me that my 15-year-old wants to sleep until 1 p.m. in the summer and then there's not much opportunity to do anything. But that's how they are. You cannot force your daughter to sleep when you want her to, even if it would be in her best interests. My son is able to get up for something that matters to him, and he's able to get up on time for school. That is the minimum and I let the rest go.
However, you can set limits, regardless of what your ex does. You can make staying up late less desirable by having your router turn off at 10 p.m. so there's no internet, by planning fun activities in the mornings on weekends (oh, I went to breakfast without you. sorry!), by scheduling lessons/tutoring in the afternoons during ''nap time,'' and so on. You can also say, ''Here are the requirements: you must get at least a 3.0 GPA or the consequences will be no phone,'' or whatever you decide, and leave it up to her to figure out a sleep schedule that supports that.
So, pick your limits and your plan. Get some counseling yourself if need be. If they're not like the rules at her father's house, so be it. If she threatens to go there, tell her you'd be sad but you're not changing the rules. She will respect you more for setting reasonable, firm, safe boundaries in the long run. Stop trying to parent with your ex since there's no point. Just let it go; you have enough on your plate.
During a very dark time in my post-divorce life, I made a list on paper of the things I could control and what I couldn't. Making my ex be nice to me or my daughter: not in my control. It was amazing what a relief it was to see that in black and white. And very helpful to have a list of things I COULD do. patience, time and hope
It seems to me that you should continue to be the kind of parent you are while you are responsible for the child and give the other parent the room to be the parent they CAN be even if that is not your style.
your child is now 15 and believe me even if you both parents lived under the same roof, she would pull the same ''Dad said is OK'' crap, you are now dealing with a teen make the adjustments.
regarding the sleep schedule, in your home your rules and that includes lights out time.
Good luck, and try to make the best of it when you have her. I get it, I was a teen and now a Dad
You will save yourself a lot of misery if you let go of the idea that you and your ex must have similar parenting rules and style, because that is very unlikely to happen. You will drive yourself crazy and end up angry all the time. I've been there myself!
This is a difficult time for all of you. I wish you the best navigating these choppy waters. co-parent veteran
Unfortunately, you're pretty much powerless over your daughter's father's parenting style. The only card you can play is to have the court evaluate, I.E. go to war, with a court-appointed ''expert'' looking at BOTH households. The two couples I know who went down this road (both initiated by the moms) ended up $10,000+ poorer with NO CHANGE in custody.
Judith Larner has done a lot of research in the outcomes for kids in divorce, and the best indicators are low levels of parental conflict, and continued contact with both parents.
Having said that, in my remodeled family, with nearly equal joint custody, also week on/ week off schedule, while there are differences, both I and my son's mom are pretty much hard-asses, about homework, schedules, consequences, etc, and I am The World's Nicest Ex-Husband, so I can't say I really DEAL with the situation you describe - what I'm sharing is my particular experience, and intention. I want the best for my son, and I'm convinced that fighting with his mom about parenting style is NOT the way to get it. Two Homes, Two Regimes
I have a worrisome & frustrating situation with my 15 yr old son. I am concerned about my son because of his escalating intake of energy drinks combined with excessive hours of video game playing. I have 50-50 custody with his father who has a personality disorder and who is extremely hard to coordinate any positive coparenting with. His father will not go to mediation or couseling to improve this. I am finding if I attempt to have my son decrease his vices he becomes extremely defensive & much of my time with him is spent policing him & arguing. He buys the energy drinks when he is away from the house so I am finding it hard to control his access, his sleep is lousy. I get no back up from the dad and when my son goes to his house he can indulge in these behaviors without limits so reigning in what I see as an addiction feels impossible. If my son gets ticked off by my limits he can always go hang out at his dads. While I feel like throwing my hands up I am determined not to give up!! Anyone have any suggestions? Also, I think my son would benefit from counseling, he's not into it and his father won't consent. I am considering going to court to get the judge to OK therapy without his father's approval but I am wondering iif others have experience sending a resistant kid to therapy. My hope is that if I had him go a few times things might click with the therapist. Has anyone had success with this? Jane
Coyote Coast Coyote Coast Youth and Family Counseling www.coyotecoast.org/Specializing in individual, family and group therapy. 104 Camino Pablo Orinda, CA 94563 (925) 258-5400 www.coyotecoast.org
Vive Family Support Program?
1150 Maxwell Ave. Ste 200,
Boulder CO 80304
All screening is done through the Colorado office, but there are therapists and
mentors in the greater Bay Area
My husband and I are divorcing and I have serious concerns about co-parenting our daughter (high school freshman) post divorce. Why? Because one of the biggest reasons for the divorce is that we have been unsuccessful co-parenting while married. We are really different. He is really permissive, doesn't believe in parenting research, and has few boundaries/consequences for our daughter (honestly, I can't think of any offhand). I am the opposite. Compromise rarely was achieved. Since we already don't agree on most parenting issues, how is this going to work post-divorce? I am in therapy, our daughter is in therapy, but my husband absolutely refuses to do any more counseling (we had been in couples counseling for about 2 years before we stopped and he said he wanted a divorce). Perhaps needless to say, he and I are really different and things are really exacerbated right now. If anyone has any advice, I would surely appreciate hearing it. totally stressed out
It helps that your daughter is in high school and is going to be taking care of herself a lot, compared to when she was in kindergarten and everything had to be coordinated for her. Keep setting the same rules you always would in your house. Talk about why you set those rules--''I set a 10 p.m. bedtime on weeknights because it helps you stay healthy, do well in school, and maintain a good mood.'' Hopefully she'll apply some of those same rules to herself when she's with her father. If she doesn't, well, try not to stress about the less-important things. Unless he lets her do things that are a danger to herself or others, I'd turn a blind eye. You don't have control of it, so don't try to. She will survive.
And don't assume that your daughter will prefer the no-rules lifestyle. My daughter isn't really impressed with her dad's parenting style, especially now that he has another daughter with his new wife and she sees how he parents her. My daughter and I have stayed close, and I think her personal rules/behavior are more similar to mine than her father's. Kids generally appreciate reasonable limits and rules. Just being consistent, and being you. it will be okay
This therapist had NO experience in dealing with a hostile parent and would not or could not control the sessions, which escalated hostilities with each visit as she pitted us against each other and allowed name calling and threatening behavior. I did not feel safe in session. Her methods ran contrary to the advice of every book on co-parenting out there. I would have been much better off buying a $20 book and saving hundreds of wasted dollars. Get the ''Co-Parenting Survival Guide.'' By the time she was through with us it was too late to salvage anything. Seeing her more than once was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. If it feels wrong and you leave feeling worse, run don't walk!
After being cheated on repeatedly, I finally divorced my longtime h. I feel much better, and the two kids seem quite happy. The older one is almost twelve, though, and I am wondering what to say when and if she asks me why this happened. There is a universally understood, clear reason- but am I supposed to tell her ? What will she think of her father ? I have a very hard time lieing. D
She is not blaming you for the divorce (which some daughters do, even if their fathers have had affairs). You do not need to defend the choice you made. If she eventually does ask, you might consider saying, in a matter-of fact tone (tone is so often primarily what our children hear), something neutral like ''Your father and I have different values and very different views of what a good marriage is, and our marriage didn't work out. I hope that you will have a much happier relationship, though, when you are grown up.'' I think she will be grateful to you for the last, and when she is an adult and figures out what went on, will be happy that you didn't burden her with too much information. As time goes by and you are discussing boy/ girl relationships, you can stress your hope that she will find someone who will treat her with the respect she very much deserves.
Sadly, too many angry mothers embitter their daughters or use them as confidantes (which I don't hear that you would do.)
I hope that you hear from daughters who have been in this situation and who appreciated what they were told and how. I hear from the ones who greatly wish they hadn't been exposed to the information at all.
The parents of our very dear friend (who occasionally helps out at home w/our kids) have decided to separate, and I'm at a loss as to how (and whether) to talk with her about it. I'm also not sure what to tell our kids, and am anxious that if I tell them they might say something insensitive to her. Our friend is an amazing, truly lovely and mature beyond her years, 13 year old girl, whom we and our kids absolutely adore. She's extremely bright, well-adjusted, patient, kind, delightful, the works. My husband and I are both children of divorce, and I have intensely (and, admittedly, judgmental) negative feelings about divorce and its impact on children. I really want to be supportive, but not intrusive and not inappropriate. What to do. anon
I don't think it would be right for you to bring it up. Despite that she probably really likes you, she may or may not want to discuss this openly with you, even if it WOULD help her. It is prying into her private emotions, and a very confusing time in her life, if you bring it up. Don't give her the soft-eyes-and-smile look of sympathy, and don't pat her shoulder as a way to console her when you feel you need to express in some way that you feel bad for her (unless she has opened the topic).
Just act normal and provide consistency in your relationship with her. Don't bring up her situationShe's about to undergo a huge shift in how her life works, so it will be nice to have things be the same and not change with you. If she brings it up, however, then yes, provide as much support as you know how to. -Leave it up to her.
My sister is going through a divorce and is having a great deal of difficulty with her two daughters who are going into 7th and 9th grades. I'd like to recommend some books to her - she does not live in California. I've asked her to look into finding a counselor or other person to talk with her daughters but it's hard for her to figure out where to start looking. I'm sure she would benefit from discussing this with a professional as well. I'd also like, for myself, some reading or other recommendations for information on discussing this topic since the girls are coming for a visit this summer.
My husband and I are in the early stages of divorce. We are going to be working
with a mediator. Our daughter is 14. While we will of course get legal input on
this, I am curious how other couples who divorced dealt with the child custody
issues with a teen. I had assumed custody would be 50/50, but my husband is
insistent that he wants to honor what our daughter wants. It is my understanding
that she has no legal standing, but her input would be taken into consideration. My
daughter has always had a wonderful relationship with her dad, which is great. She
has had a challenging relationship with me. Long story short, I believe much of
this is because I'm the bad cop (believe in boundaries/consequences; I'm ''not
fun''; I keep on top of her homework ) and my husband is the good cop (unless it's
dangerous, he doesn't really have any problem with it and feels she should be
self-regulating on everything). So, I'm concerned that because my daughter and I
don't have a warm fuzzy relationship like she has with her dad (unless she
wants/needs something from me), that we won't end up with 50/50 custody.
Who gets to decide what is best for our daughter and how is that judged?
scared of losing my daughter
I understand what you are saying about providing more structure and oversight than your husband does, and thereby setting yourself up as the Bad Guy. That's me, too. And at 14, kids are so resistant to being told what to do - they do look with high favor on the path of least resistance. However, I would advise you to think about the big picture, not just what is best for right now. This could actually be a golden opportunity for you to start building the kind of relationship with your daughter that you want when she is 16, and 18, and 20, and all the years after. This is a good age for a kid to share in major decisions like this, and it's a good age for you to make the switch from being your daughter's boss to being your daughter's consultant, something all of us with teens eventually have to do, or else risk them dropping you from their lives. Your daughter will be out on her own and making her own decisions in the blink of an eye - the high school years go by so fast. Start building for that now. I would advise you to rank the mother-daughter relationship at a higher priority than boundaries, consequences, homework, etc. As long as she isn't in any danger, let her have more time with her dad if that is what she says she wants. If you show her that you trust her to participate in important decisions that affect her, and that you will try your best to accommodate these decisions even when you disagree, then you are giving her something much more valuable than the structure you have to offer at home. local mom
My 15 yr. old newphew wants to move in with his biological father. He's always lived with his mom, and his bio dad has never paid child support. His mother and step father are against the move. His step father is verbally abusive to both the mom and son, and is physically abusive to mom. I've heard that after age 13 that the child can choose which parent to live with. My question is: how to go about this legally. What are the child's rights and responsibilities? What are the rights and responsibilities of the biological dad? What about the mom and step dad? I'd like to help my newphew get in a better living situation and I think that moving into home without abuse is clearly healthier. anon
My concern about your nephew is that you don't say much about the biological father. If he has not contributed before, how can he support the boy now? While it seems clear that the situation demands that your nephew move for his own sake, I would also suggest that he go to counseling to deal with the anger he will have about his mother's inability to protect herself and him. As a survivor of domestic abuse I would also suggest that you contact a women's help group for advice on how to help your sister. Good luck. another survivor
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