If you are ending a marriage and teenage children are involved, you should consider addressing a few other issues in your divorce mediation sessions –such as transferring children, involving counselors, and setting healthy, consistent boundaries. Appropriate communication with and in front of your children is still an important matter to discuss in divorce mediation when teenagers are involved (see Part 2). Additionally, being consistent with schedules is essential (See Part 2). As teenagers begin to have independent lives and get involved in activities, such as employment, it becomes increasingly significant to have a schedule in place upon which they can depend and plan around.
How to handle the physical transfer of children between households is something divorcing parents should consider discussing in divorce mediation for children of all ages. As always the focus should be on minimizing conflict –as this is in the best interests of your children. Particulars that might be discussed in divorce mediation include: where will the transfer occur; and who will be present at the transfer. If the two of you cannot engage without conflict, maybe it is better to pick up and drop children off at neural home, such as a grandparent. If a new romantic interest is going to be upsetting to the situation, then perhaps efforts should be made to avoid that person being present. If child-related issues need to be discussed, how will they be handled? For instance, can you agree to go somewhere outside of the earshot of the children, or discuss them on the phone before or after the pick up? Keep in mind that it is very upsetting to children to be in the middle of any sort of conflict between their parents. Efforts now to address some of these issues in divorce mediation, and come to agreements, will be helpful later.
It is not uncommon for teenagers (and school age children too) to have a difficult time adjusting to their parents’ divorce. Even with the most well intentioned parents, children often feel in the middle of the conflict, or blame themselves for the situation. Behaviors to watch out for include failing grades, personality changes, disassociation from friends or family, depression, withdrawal from normal activities, and drug use. It is a good idea to discuss in divorce mediation what you intend to do if you observe that your child is not adjusting well to the divorce. Will you get your children in counseling? How will you choose a counselor? Who will pay for it? Children may or may not be receptive to the idea of therapy, but they will definitely be more receptive if both parents are encouraging.
While it is tempting to want to be more of a friend to your children when they reach their teenage years, this is precisely the time when they are looking to you as parents to help them set good, healthy boundaries. This is sometimes a tricky area to mediate, but the discussion might center around keeping similar rules regarding when children need to be home, how they are to check in, how and what information needs to be provided regarding sleepovers, etc. This is your opportunity to try and get on the same page with your spouse about these issues. It will have negative ramifications for your children if one parent is the “good-time Charlie”, while the other attempts to set healthy boundaries. Children unfortunately end up learning the hard way (often through unfortunate experiences) when parents give their children mixed messages.
For any questions regarding divorce mediation, please contact Lisa Nelson at San Francisco Area Mediation at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation.