Including teenagers in the divorce process…Step One

Teenagers pose the most difficult challenge to parents involved in divorce.  Including a teenager in the divorce process appears, on it’s face, to be doing nothing more than adding gasoline to the fire.  Why should we give teenagers a voice when we create a parenting plan that mom dad are required to live by?

In most family law cases we have an active mom AND and active father.   How these active mom’s and dads interact with one another is a key ingredient whether these children will succeed or fail.   The key question is whether or not a teenager can assist his or her parent’s in coming up with an effective parenting plan that helps minimize future conflict.  Obtaining an answer to this question requires us to look at the benefits to both the divorcing parents and affected teenager.

The benefits of including a teenager’s voice for the parents:

a.   Requires them to focus on the needs of their children

b.   Directs them to making decisions as a family, making them work together and solve the needs of their children

The benefits for a teenager who has a voice in their parent’s divorce:

a.    More in control over their lives and present circumstances

b.    Less threatened about their future stability

Of course, teenagers must be taught to separate their thoughts and feeling.  Seeing how the child is impacted by the divorce is a vital part of getting the parent’s to change their focus from litigation to meeting the needs of the child..

A teenager will want to know exactly how their parent’s divorce will effect their life.  A teenager will want to know that this divorce will not effect their ability to play sports, not mean that they will lose relationships with friends, etc..  A teenager is going to want flexibility incorporated in the parenting plan.  Parents will want to meet the teenagers need for flexibility to be within defined proper boundaries.  The agreement reached between parents and teenager should be reduced to writing and included in the parties parenting plan, just like a loving and caring order, just like the children’s bill of rights.  Parents should also come up with a set of rules they both require the teenager to abide by.

Giving that teenager a voice gives him stability, and gives him a feeling that they matter. A child who feels included is not going to feel abandoned or excluded.  Giving the teenager fixed boundaries provides the teenager with the direction that he or can grow and develop.

It is Kids First Parents Second mission to create an environment to help families resolve conflict.  Parents involved in divorce who adopt a kids first parents second philosophy have the best chance of meeting the long term needs of their children.

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