Parenting Considerations During Divorce for The Adolescent or High School-Aged Child (14 to 18 Years)
Parenting an older adolescent or high school-aged youth requires a delicate balance. On one hand, the older adolescent is still a child inside an adult body. The parent needs to be there to comfort, support, and guide the adolescent into adulthood and through the maze of difficult life decisions. On the other hand, the parent needs to permit independence for the sake of the adolescent’s future growth and development.
Divorce often disrupts the adolescent’s sense of security and rootedness at this critical juncture.
As a result, there is a risk that the adolescent may either withdraw into the family situation or become prematurely independent. A parent, for example, may be unable to “let go” and give the adolescent an appropriate level of independence because the divorce compounds the sense of loss.
The following needs to be considered in divorce and dissolution cases involving adolescent children:
• How does the parent express unconditional love through time spent with the adolescent, affection, and acknowledgement of the adolescent’s milestones?
• Does the parent support the adolescent’s participation in appropriate activities, to include financial, transportation, and psychological support?
• Does the parent attend events that the adolescent wants the parent to attend?
• How well informed is the parent of the adolescent’s school attendance, standardized and special testing, and history of report cards?
• Is the parent aware of changes in academic performance?
• How does the parent reassure the child that the parent will be supportive of the child’s future?
• Does the parent help the adolescent evaluate and assess decisions about the adolescent’s future and help the child plan financially?
• If the parent has a new adult relationship, is he or she introduced to the adolescent with discretion and sensitivity?
• Does the parent set age-appropriate and relationship-appropriate boundaries between the parent’s partner and the adolescent?
• What rules and consequences has the parent established?
• How is the adolescent included in discussions about discipline?
• Is the parent there when the adolescent is supposed to return home?
• How does the parent discuss sexuality, healthy relationships, and other factors that may impact the adolescent, such as substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and gangs?
• How does each parent support the adolescent’s relationship with the other parent?
• Has the parent attended a research-based parenting skills training program?
• If a parent is diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder or psychiatric disorder, has he or she sought treatment?
• If so, what has been the outcome of the treatment?
It is critical for the parent to promote the adolescent’s independence while still offering guidance and setting limits.
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