Co-Parenting a Teen in a Blended Family
Parenting a teenager is challenging for a traditional family, let alone a blended family. A blended family requires co-parenting coordination. Having teens makes that coordination even more important.
My first-born Ali is almost 14. When her stepmother Molly first met her, my daughter was ten. Molly’s biggest challenge in her marriage to my ex has been parenting my eldest daughter. She is a bit dramatic, and extremely outspoken. She has challenged Molly every step of the way, and Molly often receives the brunt of the blame for my failed first marriage. I have explained to my daughter multiple times that this is unfair to Molly and that our marriage ultimately failed due to her father and I growing apart. I have explained that Molly is not responsible.
My daughter is the reason that her stepmother and I began openly communicating in the first place. She would play both sides, trying to set Molly and I against one another. One day in particular comes to mind. My daughter had spent the night with a friend on a Friday night, which was my night. The following day was her father’s and stepmother’s day. She was supposed to have been dropped off by a certain time at her dad’s house. Molly had planned a girl’s day for just her and my oldest daughter, as my other daughter was with a grandparent, and Molly had child-care lined up for her child. My daughter knew this, and called me that morning, while in the same room with her friend. She asked if she could go to the store with her friend and her parent.
I agreed, as long as she would be back to her father’s house as she had promised Molly, and as long as it was okay with Molly. My daughter proceeded to call Molly and tell her that I said it was fine. Had Molly and I not been communicating with one another, this could have been a huge misunderstanding. Next, my daughter called and asked if she could get lunch and a pedicure with this friend. When I tried to remind her that she was supposed to be back to her father’s house, she confessed that she was actually already in the chair getting a pedicure and could not leave. My daughter ended up missing the girls’ day, which really hurt Molly’s feelings. She was reaching out for my daughter, trying to make time for the two of them, showing Ali that she was important. My daughter manipulated the situation and also attempted to play one household against the other. My daughter was punished, in both houses, and was reminded that her co-parents speak daily.
Teenagers require a different kind of parenting than younger children, and this can be a bigger challenge for blended families. I personally feel is important to have continuous communication in both homes. We keep the same rules and the same consequences in both homes. We set boundaries in both homes, which we all four continuously discuss and revise. We let our children know that they can talk to any of their four co-parents without hurt feelings or judgment from any of the other parents. Our children have four adults they know they can count on.
How do you co-parent your teenager? Do you have open communication between bio parents and step-parents? What works for your family? Do you have similar boundaries at both homes?
Author Info: Trish Eklund has lived in Nebraska for almost fifteen years, raising her two daughters of nine and thirteen with her husband, ex-husband and his wife. Taking a nontraditional approach to raising children after divorce and remarriage, all four adults co-parent their daughters. Trish is a feature writer for Big Blended Family, and also for Her View From Home in the family category, touching on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting issues. Visit her personal blog by clicking HERE.