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and the adolescent…
Issues on both sides of the fence…
has a way of changing everything – including access. Separated parents
who have long determined child custody and settled into an access regime now must contend with the
wishes of their teenager when determining visits and even with whom they
key issues come to mind when considering these changes. The first is the
changing demands of school, social and working life of the teen. The
second is when the sins of the parent come back to haunt them.
the teenager’s life gets busy, access is viewed as an inconvenience. As
such many access parents are confronted with voice messages saying their
teen isn’t coming over this weekend. This of course is met with dismay
and if there was ever any concern about the custodial parent undermining
access, this scenario is certainly a set-up for conflict.
parents whose teenagers challenge the terms of access need to talk with
them to restructure visitation with particular concern for the teen’s
experience. This is certainly a new stage of life and any parent who
thinks they can control their teen’s needs, will be sadly mistaken. This
is not to say the tail now wags the dog, but rather, the access parent
must appreciate the needs of their teen and in the interest of a good
relationship, they must show flexibility.
parents may now find themselves having more impromptu dinners and meetings
with their teenaged kids – and getting on their “chat” list in order
to keep in touch. Those parents who accommodate to their children’s
developmental changes tend to maintain better relationships than those who
do not. A better relationship also means a better chance of being able to
still provide input, direction and guidance and most importantly, maintain
a life-long relationship. It’s still OK to push for sleepovers, but now
with a sense of your teen’s needs.
for the sins of the past, adolescence is also a time when teens put two
and two together on their own. If the teen discovers they’ve been lied
to about the access parent as a ploy to undermine that relationship, they
will feel resentful. This is when the custodial parent learns that teens
“vote with their feet”. Their resentment can cause them to change
residence in favour of the access parent. Again, depending on the
relationship between access and custodial parent, this too can be a recipe
for increased conflict with all involved.
are parents to do when they feel the tug of changes that adolescence may
Changes in access and even residence are not necessarily bad things. In fact it could just represent a natural and positive developmental process on the part of your teenager. Although the changes may be experienced as a loss to one or other parent, in fact it is likely a signal that your child is growing up. It is important to remember, that even in intact two-parent families, these natural changes do occur. As much as your child is preparing for adulthood, parents must prepare for their eventual separation and leaving home. Manage the process well and you can not only avoid serious conflict between all parties, but you can set yourselves up well for the next stage of life – an adult to adult relationship with your kids.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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