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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, a Divorce & Parenting Coach in the US, shares her advice below for divorced parents with teenagers. We thought what she had to say was insightful and worth reading if this if your situation.
- I have several divorced friends and colleagues with teenagers who are displaying disturbing behaviour problems. These teens, especially the boys, are acting out in all the ways parents pray they never have to experience: drugs, hanging with the wrong crowd, school problems, disrespectful and inconsiderate behaviour -- you get the idea.
While each of these teens has parents who are divorced, there's more to it than just that. Their biological fathers are not playing a strong role in their lives. And their mothers do not have a positive relationship with their ex-partner.
Does this mean that all children of divorce whose fathers are not actively in their lives will grow up to be troubled teens? Of course not. But there is a strong correlation between a father's influence and a child's - especially a son's -- sense of positive self-esteem and responsible behaviour.
We all know it's tough to be a teen. The challenges are enormous and the influences towards negative and anti-social behaviours are substantial within our culture. When you add the absence of a strong father figure to the mix, many young men just can't overcome the lack of emotional support in their lives. They are more vulnerable to the temptations of acting out and going astray.
Co-parenting after divorce is never easy, nor are there simple answers for creating a smooth transition post-divorce into the parenting arena. However there are pitfalls we can all strive to avoid and warning signs that lead to potential problems that every divorced parent should keep in mind.
Dads: Stay in your kids' lives as a parent, not a playmate. Take responsibility for talking to your teens on a regular basis about key issues, especially what it means to be a responsible young adult, how to treat parents, teachers and siblings respectfully and goals to aspire towards for a successful future.
Mums: Honour your teen's relationship with their biological Dad - even if a Step-Father or other male relationship partners are in the picture. Let their Dad actively parent them and be a model for healthy, responsible behaviour. Don't be a wedge between father and son/daughter or put down their father in their presence. You are laying the foundation for bringing into society a young adult who matures with compassion for others and high self-esteem.
Parents: The key to parenting successfully after a divorce is maturity. Make decisions about your sons and daughters from the place of a caring, loving parent, not a vengeful former spouse. Don't take out your frustrations with your ex on your children. Overlook the minor and petty annoyances and focus on the big picture -- raising confident, empathic, considerate and loving children.
When an issue comes along that pushes your buttons, ask yourself this question: How would I respond to this parenting dilemma if I wasn't divorced? Then focus on the right answer for the well-being of your children ... as a parent - not just a divorced parent.
The rewards you derive in the years to come will more than offset the frustrations and inconveniences that inevitably are part of post-divorce co-parenting. Aren't your children worth it?