It can be very difficult and stressful when two parents are not getting along or are not in agreement about how to parent. This becomes more challenging with teenagers because they will quickly understand what is going on and will make every effort to use it to their advantage. In addition, it can be very hurtful for teenagers to witness their parents not getting along.
As you know, parenting can be very challenging and even more challenging when parents are not on the same page about rules, consequences and parenting in general. Even more challenging is when two parents are not getting along at all due to separation, divorce or other stressors in the relationship. Generally in these situations, emotions are high and parents are hurt, angry, frustrated, sad or any number of other difficult emotions. Despite how difficult such situations are, it is critical that parents do not let their children witness their conflicts. I cannot tell you the number of children who I have seen for therapy who are emotionally damaged and extremely confused because their parents constantly argue and say negative, rude and disrespectful things about one another. I am not suggesting that it is easy to keep all of these emotions to oneself, however, these emotions should be shared with other adults or professionals and not with one’s children.
Some tips for parenting if you are a parent in this situation:
1. Speaking with the other parent: if you know that you become easily emotionally charged when speaking with your child’s other parent then it is important that you have these conversations when not in the presence of your child. It is never in a teenagers best interest to witness situations where parents become negative, yell, say negative things or become verbally abusive towards one another. The damage from this can last years and can even impact your child’s ability to form healthy, trusting relationships as an adult.
2. Feeling like the other parent is undermining what you are trying to do: often times in these situations a dynamic gets set up where there is a “good parent” and a “bad parent”. Generally the “good parent” lets their teenager do what they want and does not have a lot of rules or consequences while the “bad parent” attempts to maintain rules and structure for their teenager. In these situations, it is really important that both parents figure out a way to come to SOME agreement about rules and expectations. Sometimes this can be done through a third party (therapist, friend, etc) but it is critical that it get done. When doing this, pick the things that really matter and allow yourself to let some other things go. For example: it would be important for parents to agree that their teen must be getting passing grades or else there will be consequences while it may be okay for parents to not agree on how neat their teenager needs to keep their room in each of their homes if they are living separately.
3. Feeling like your teenager should know what the other parent is doing or did: parents often feel like it is important for their teenager to know that the other parent only visits with them because they are mandated to do so or that they are not paying what they are supposed to be paying each month. In some situations, parents feel like they need to tell their teenager all the awful things that the other parent did to them. In these situations, who is really benefiting from your telling your teenager these things? Usually, it is the parent who is benefiting because they are reacting to strong, negative emotions they are feeling. What I have found over the years is that in the end, teenagers and young adults know what is going on and ultimately know which parent is consistent and which one is not. In addition, I have found that teenagers become very resentful of parents who bad mouth one another (even if what is being said is true) because it causes them a lot of confusion and feelings of betrayal by both parents. Teenagers will figure this out over time and will be much better off if they see that their two parents are able to be civil and respectful of one another while in their presence.
Of course if you ever truly believe someone is doing something that harmful, illegal or significantly damaging to your child you should take immediate steps to make sure your child is safe. The above described parenting situations can be very difficult and emotionally draining and sometimes last for a prolonged period of time. If you are a parent experiencing such difficulties in parenting consistently with your child’s other parent, it is important that you get support for yourself so that you can both take care of yourself and be strong for your child.
© 2009 Elite Life Coaching
My name is Karen Vincent. I am a Certified Life Coach as well as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with a Masters Degree from Boston University. I have worked with teenagers / adolescents and their parents for the last 15 years in a variety of settings, including outpatient therapy, specialized schools, and in the home.
I have developed and conducted numerous parenting classes and support workshops specific to parents of teens. I have also created and presented training for professional staff including teachers, therapists and counselors who work with adolescents in Massachusetts, Connecticut and in New York City.
In my work, I partner with parents (usually through phone calls) who are experiencing difficulties in connecting with their teenage children and who are struggling to manage social, emotional or behavioral issues which arise during the teenage years. Through working with me, parents are able to:
• work through any self doubt they are having about their parenting
• develop action plans for addressing their areas of concern
• develop new ways of parenting their teens effectively
• discover new ways of connecting effectively with their teens
• eliminate sleepless nights and worries while Restoring Peace of Mind During the Teenage Years
Please call for a free Coaching Consultation: 774-245-7775