For Parents

Adolesence – stand back and admire your children

There’s a pattern separated parents often get into when their children approach adolescence and start orienting themselves more toward their peer relationships.  It’s a natural progression for children at that time in their development to show less interest in their primary relationships with family members and to start to move out into the world with their age-mates.

This can be a challenging time for families where the parents are together and it is often even harder to negotiate when the parents have separated and are living in two homes that can be at a distance from each other.

When children reach 12 or so, they start developing a stronger interest in spending weekend time and after school hours with their friends, usually in groups that do things together such as going to a skateboard park or engaging in team sports.

Both parents are likely to notice that their formerly close bond with a child becomes more distant and, if the parents are living in separate homes, you can expect that the child will want one home now, preferably nearest to their friends.


It’s nobody’s fault – it’s Nature

There is potential for one parent to blame the other for this evolution, thinking that the other parent has encouraged the child to want to spend less time.

This probably would have been the trend anyway if the parents had not separated and children come to it themselves without being put up to anything by a parent.  Adolescents want less to do with their parents and more to do with their peers.  That is easier if they don’t have to put in appearances at two homes.  And the home they will favour is the one where they spend more of their time and have made the most friendships with peers.

Adolescents are attracted to hanging out after school with peers or going home to a neighbourhood where there are friends readily available.  They want consent to go to the beach together, or to a park or shopping centre where they can hang out in groups.  This is their natural way of progressing from your supervising care toward independent and individual capacity to navigate the adult world.


But What If?

Of course there are dangers.  That is why they still need you to be in their corner, progressively letting go as seems appropriate and occasionally clashing with them over safety issues.  This is when they need you to be at the end of a phone, with a willingness to go to them if they get into a sticky situation.

What they do not benefit from at this time is rising parental disputing over who is responsible for their changing view of the world and new-found desire for independence.  If you fight them, as they saying goes, you have as much chance of stopping their advancing maturity as if you were wrestling with a greased pig.  You will ultimately lose your grip on them and they won’t feel able to call you for support, help or advice.

There may be a convention these days that children do just fine with two homes.  It is probably truer that children want and need loving relationships with both their parents and the only way to get that is to have two homes.  When their primary want and need is to develop appropriate adolescent relationships with groups of peers, being near those peers is the motivating factor.


Love Survives the Transition

This does not mean the child loves each parent less.  At this time, you are vitally important in your role as a support person to launching the young adult.  If you stand on the principal of week on-week off that has served you all for a decade or so, and insist on your equal or substantial time, you stand in the way of a rushing river.  The quality of your time is likely to deteriorate and ultimately the teenager will vote with his or her feet.

Judges know this and courts receive many applications from parents who want the other parent brought into line and teenagers mandated to continue in old patterns.  However, if you want to dance at future weddings and be relevant to your child throughout your lifetime, hear your child.  Avoid blaming the other parent or the child.  This is not about you or your value as a parent.


Let Go and Enjoy – the Smart Choice

Stand ready to listen and provide support when it is needed, acknowledging any feelings of sadness and loss without making the teenager responsible for making those feelings dissolve.  Everyone’s life is changing and if you need help with your transition, talk to your peers or to a psychologist.

Enjoy and admire your child as he or she develops as a member of a peer group, then as an individual who dates and travels and occasionally makes mistakes.  If you like and love them through this testing time, your children will circle back to you from time to time.  Enjoy.



Psychology, Counselling & Mediation Sunshine Coast Ph 0424 002 640

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Rosalin Primrose Psychology Services

Rosalin Primrose

MA , Reg Psych, (FDRP)
  • Medicare Provider No: 4197097T
  • Counselling Psychology Reg No: PSY 0000976237
  • Nationally Accredited Mediator & Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP)
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