This isn’t something I’ve walked through personally, and I won’t pretend or claim to know the challenges stacked on top of parenting teens. I’ve walked through this with a dozen close friends, and I want to share some of what worked.
You didn’t begin your marriage planning for it to end, or believing you’d be co-parenting with a person you once called spouse. This isn’t about blame, shame, or judgement in any way. I believe you made the best choice for you and your kids.
That doesn’t make it easy.
Unfortunately, your co-parent may have entirely different parenting beliefs and values that drive you crazy and your children find confusing or even frustrating. Add this to the day to day or raising happy, healthy teens and parenting might feel insurmountable, near impossible.
Parents ask me all the time how to get their co-parent to see the error of their ways and change their minds. You can’t, so stop exhausting yourself trying. Convincing anyone that you’re right and they’re wrong is a losing battle that only further entrenches them in their current ways. You have little say about what goes on in the other home unless it falls under the specifics in your custody or separation agreement.
Compensating by doubling down makes it worse.
If you don’t agree with how your former partner is parenting, and you go all in using your values and beliefs to compensate for what your teen isn’t getting in the other home, you’re not helping your teen, you’re trying to be more right. That kind of polarization makes it even harder for your teens to adjust week to week and sends clear, derogatory messages about their other parent without you having to say a word.
Polarized parenting puts your children in a position of choosing one over the other, which is likely what you’re trying to avoid, and even your worst nightmare if they don’t choose you.
You do you.
Be the parent you want to be, not someone making up for something. Parent from what feels right for you knowing your teens have a different experience at the other house and that’s not your fault or in your control. Have compassion for how hard that level of polarization is on them and be flexible without giving up your values.
The differences in parenting styles might be giving your teen whip lash.
Can you imagine travelling from Jamaica to Russia each week, and being expected to acclimatize to the culture and temperature changes in a few hours? Then doing the opposite route the next week? It’s enough to make your head spin!
You’re either too hot, too cold, up all night or sleeping all day, and you keep forgetting something in the other country and need to adapt without it, while getting in trouble for not packing with enough thought. It’s like you can’t win and no one seems to understand how exhausting the back and forth is for you.
Allow a day for jet lag.
Although I recorded this video months earlier, as I was writing this I saw a TikTok from Kristina Kuzmic (@IamKristinaKuzmic) about this difficult weekly transition. She and her ex we very polarized and she noticed the day they came back to her place was always high conflict, exhausting and not fun for any of them.
After noticing how much this one transition day was negatively impacting her relationship with her teens, they agreed to have a jet lag day. She picked less battles in that 24-36hours with compassion for their feeling of going from Russia to Jamaica, and they fought against her boundaries less feeling seen and heard in their emotional struggle.
Keep your opinions to yourself.
No matter how much you disagree with or dislike your former partner, making derogatory comments about them in front of your teen is disparaging to them because that’s half their DNA you’re talking about. When you shame their other parent, you shame them.
Normalize differences rather than vilify them by finding creative ways to explain that everyone thinks and feels differently and it’s ok to ask questions, disagree or prefer one method over the other (because your teen does even if they don’t say it). Advocate for your teen when needed and help them to express their needs as well without falling back into the right/wrong game.
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