Teenagers and Child Custody

In Child Custody, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

Working through the realities of child custody is challenging for any parent. Even with the most thoughtful, well-intentioned parenting plan agreement or child custody order, and co-parents who communicate well, our life circumstances evolve and our children age. In fact, as children of separated parents become teenagers, new custody challenges can arise that will challenge the best of us.

Teenagers Have Their Own Lives

A natural part of children’s development is that they are less and less dependent as they grow up. Long gone are the days when they were super-attached and always wanted to be around you. Now they have their friends, they start to date, they have school, they have extracurricular activities, and they have hobbies. In other words they are increasingly busy. Because of their social lives, their time commitments, and because they are trying to figure out who they are, teenagers sometimes refuse to do extended visitation with a parent.

This poses a dilemma as this refusal to visit may have nothing to do with the other parent—and so it is hard to know where to direct your frustration or anger. Further, while no child has an absolute right to ignore existing custody orders or parenting agreements, it would probably be unproductive to bring your teenager before a court for a judge to tell them they have to visit with you. Instead, you should have an open dialogue with your child about your desire to spend time with them and to come up with creative ways to continue to have visitation while also allowing them to grow into young adulthood.

Teenagers May Choose Not to Communicate, or May Communicate TOO Well

While the life of a teenager isn’t generally as bleak as the kids from the show 13 Reasons Why, or even Riverdale, parents shouldn’t minimize their child’s high school experience. In the age of social media, bullying and isolation are very real and pose emotional dangers to your teenagers in their formative years. Kids can react to this by internalizing the pain, by trying to express their feelings to you, or by projecting their negative feelings and lashing out at their parents.

Whatever approach your child takes, just know that now more than ever, it can be difficult to communicate with him or her. This can translate to awkward and lonely visits between you and your teenaged child—and sometimes this means that neither you nor your child particularly looks forward to visits. Giving up, however, is not an option and it is critical that you keep trying to communicate with your child and model healthy methods of coping. There is also strength in seeking professional help if you are out of ideas.

Contact New Direction Family Law

Child custody issues can be really challenging. At New Direction Family Law, our attorneys are invested in providing compassionate, thoughtful representation to people who need help obtaining child custody agreements, orders, or modifications. If you need assistance, call us today. We proudly serve Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Call (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or contact us online at our website.