Child custody plans for teens during and after divorce are particularly important. It’s a turbulent time as young people transition into adulthood. They are striving to establish their identity, become increasingly independent and develop judgement and social skills.
Divorce, and the broad fears and emotional stress it stirs up, can seriously undermine the already challenging teenage development phase. Morristown family law divorce attorneys in Chester, Chatham, Mendham, Harding and Morris Township advocate Patience, Attention, Sensitivity and Tolerance (PAST).
with solid advice from Morristown Family Law Attorneys @ Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark
Your legal counsel can provide important guidance beyond strictly legal child custody arrangements and recommend best-practice co-parenting techniques.
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What is PAST anyway?
We know that it’s natural for teenagers to try to control the change happening around them which is affecting every aspect of their lives. There are no hard-and-fast co-parenting guidelines beyond assuring that parents are consistently practicing the virtues of being Patient, Attentive, Sensitive and Tolerant (PAST). Remember!: Be PAST.
In order to preserve your teen’s trust in his/her divorcing parents, it is of utmost importance that parents quickly establish a new kind of relationship with each other that is characterized by an uncompromising commitment to each other on behalf of their children. This is co-parenting at its best: a functioning alliance in which both parents (and any step-parents) are openly prioritizing “working together” for their teen’s sake.
Teens often display a mix of behaviors often including outbursts, withdrawals, rebellions, angry words and actions, etc. all of which tend to reflect a young person’s underlying worries or feelings of insecurity, wounded self-esteem and even guilt. By adopting co-parenting techniques, divorcing parents can offer acceptable responses or options when a teen’s choice may not be acceptable or safe.
Look, Listen and Pay Attention! Even when things seem “okay” it is a good idea to ask. Be intentional about making parenting time and stay involved as much as you reasonably can.
Think carefully about what and how you say/ask things and about the actions you take or behaviors you might be modeling. Most teens will place much more value and truth in what you do (your actions) over what you say (the words, warnings and lectures). Both mothers and fathers have much to teach and model to their children; it is still valuable even from separate households, including, by the way, modeling courtesy, respectfulness and consideration with respect to your ex-spouse.
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Above all, be respectful with high-road responses that inspire trust and show consistency. It may be difficult, but prepare yourself not to take observations, decisions or criticisms from your teen personally. For your teen’s sake, encourage bonding and communicating with your ex-spouse.
Your lawyer will help you with this by assisting you to set up proactive child custody and visitation arrangements.
Your role as a parent is ever-changing and broad. It certainly includes being strongly supportive as your teen copes with life-shaking change. This is worth repeating: It’s your job to be supportive of and defend your teen; however, it is not your teen’s job to be supportive of (or defend) you or your ex. Your teen is not an adult; he or she is not your confidant.
Teens need “safe” communication situations that provide for some stability in a changing family life. Your family law team at Townsend, Tomaio and Newmark can help you build this into your child custody arrangement. It is your job as parents to practice listening without judgement to your teen’s opinions, ideas, concerns and worries.
–Prepare yourself! Keep in mind that teens often think and express themselves emotionally rather than rationally. Listen and respond to their hearts.
Invite and encourage your teen to participate in decision-making conversations, especially around issues that immediately affect him or her. This doesn’t mean that the teen has full authority to make final decisions. Rather, it shows that you respect that he or she has concerns, preferences and priorities which are worthy of being factored into final decisions.
Doing so allows for added benefits for parents and the teen. First, participation in the decisions that affect him or her sends your teen a strong message that his/her opinion is valued. It also demonstrates to the teen that his/her parents understand that this change is not just about the two of them, which is a significant factor in reaffirming your teen’s self-esteem. Finally, your teen’s participation in establishing the visitation and vacation schedules, house rules and other decisions around his/her life will almost certainly facilitate a higher level of collaboration and harmony.
Things like rules, schedules, and “family” activities will need to be reliable, but flexible. Always keep in mind that your teen is adjusting to the changes of separate homes and relationships (possibly including a step parent) all of which are often overwhelming and affect the teen’s personal time and (extremely important) social life. Divorce can inspire greater independence which sometimes looks like rebellious behaviors. By practicing PAST behaviors, you will better able to decide
An experienced lawyer can influence feuding attitudes and help you to achieve a new level of family well-being.
In order to assure quality parenting time, your Bergen County family lawyer will facilitate collaborative communication styles and co-parenting techniques, including a framework for cooperative custody. The law offices of Townsend, Tomaio, and Newmark have a proven track record for dedicated, personal and caring representations across the many communities of northern New Jersey.