As your child gets older and enters the teenage years, they tend to get busier. Schoolwork takes up more time. Sports are more demanding, resulting in more practices, games, and exhaustion. School clubs require after school meetings and planned events. Some teens may get a part-time job or spend time babysitting the neighbor’s toddler. On top of this, your child will develop a busier social life. Playdates will come to an end and roving the mall, late night sleepovers, and trips to the movie theater will take over. Eventually, your child will have a very busy schedule.
When your child enters adolescence, the reality is that they may no longer want to spend their weekends at home hanging out with mom or dad. This new reality can be even harsher for separated parents. Every divorce is unique, but many result in one parent having primary custody. The non-custodial parent may see their child every other weekend or even less. This limited time can quickly become troublesome when your child reaches the age where they feel spending time with their parent is not “cool”, they do not want to miss out on anything fun happening in their social group, or they simply want to spend time with their friends. Every family, whether divorced or not, will go through this with their children but when time with your child is limited by divorce, it can be harder to handle. Below are some tips on how to make everyone happy when your child’s social schedule conflicts with planned parenting time.
Respect your child’s feelings
As a parent you are going to have to give in to your child, at least a little bit. Allow them to go out with their friends during planned parenting time. Remember how you were when you were their age. Did your idea of a fun Friday night include watching an animated film with your father and kid sister? Did you ever feel like you were missing out on something important because you had to stay at home?
Also, remember that the limited parenting time that follows divorce is not your child’s fault. How do you think they will feel when declining invitations to spend time with friends due to their parent’s separation? Your child may feel resentment, bitterness, different from their peers, and simply sad. Be flexible and willing to cut back on planned parenting time for your child’s blooming social life.
Don’t take it personally
Do not read too much into your child suddenly wanting to spend time with their friends over time with their parent. They do not suddenly love you less. They are not trying to hurt your feelings. They are not angry with you. They are simply entering their teenage years, dealing with new and complex emotions, and want to start developing their own social circle.
It is not about you.
By not taking it personally and keeping this in mind, cutting back on planned parenting time will be a lot easier to stomach.
Be open with your child
Teenagers tend to be a little self-absorbed. They may not even realize that choosing friends over planned parenting time may hurt your feelings as a parent. It may seem obvious to them that they do not mean to hurt you through their actions. You can solve this problem by being open and vulnerable with your child:
- Be straight-forward- Tell your child you miss them, that planned parenting time is important to you, and that you would really appreciate them putting their social schedule on hold at times to spend some quality time together.
- Do not get angry- It can be easy to feel like your child is being selfish and has their priorities misaligned. Remember that they are young and that being angry at them will only worsen the situation.
Unfortunately, in this compromise you will probably be on the side that has to give more. But that does not mean that you must be unhappy. You and your child can work out a plan that makes everyone happy. One way to do this is to think of ways that your child’s social life can intersect with planned parenting time. Here are a few examples:
- Have your child invite their friend over to your house and have them stay for dinner. Your child can spend time with their friend but still eat dinner at home with you.
- Let your child invite a friend along on planned outings. If you have no outings planned and your child wants to spend time with friends, then plan one.
- Foster relationships with the families of your child’s closest friends. This way you can plan get togethers that allow you to have a social life as a parent, your child to have their own social life, and for you to still maintain planned parenting time.
- Set a limit on how much of your planned parenting time can be replaced by your child’s social schedule. If your child is with you for the weekend, consider allowing them to dedicate several hours to their social life. Pick an amount of time that feels equitable and works best for you and your child.
- Suggest to your child that they video chat with their friend. Your child gets to see and talk with their friend but will still be with you.
Being flexible and compromising is the key to you and your child’s shared happiness, but there are times when you should still be firm. Prioritize in advance the events where your child must be present, including:
- When company is coming over and your child is expected to be with you
- Family celebrations
- Plans that you made with your child well in advance of which they are completely aware
To stay on top of all planned parenting time, holidays, special events, and day-to-day activities and commitments, make use of Zimplified’s comprehensive calendar features and ensure that all parties are in the know. You can even have your child utilize the app to add their own plans on the calendar such as parties, concerts, and other events, to help avoid potential conflicts.
Being unyielding at times may result in your child becoming temporarily upset but will be beneficial in the long run. Your child will learn commitment, that sacrifice is sometimes necessary, family is as important as fun with friends, and the important skill of balancing the different parts of their lives.
It is easy to become upset when your child has priorities other than spending time with you. Those feelings can be heightened when time with your child is already limited as a result of divorce. Remember that as your child gets older you are actually realizing the “fruits of your labor”, as they are becoming a more self-sufficient young adult. Both of you need to adjust and find a healthy balance between time with family and friends. Communicate often and openly, and use Zimplified to help you manage commitments, avoid conflicts, and keep everyone happy and in sync.
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