Keeping Your Marriage Strong While Parenting a Teenager
There are a lot of research studies that indicate couples experience some of the biggest strain on their marriage when they are parenting a teenager. If you have more than one teenager at a time, it can mean double trouble. Or if you have kids spread so you’re parenting teenagers for many years, it can take a toll.
Although kids are never to blame for their parents’ marital issues, when parents don’t agree on parenting issues it can be a big problem. Learning how to work together to successfully parent a child who is quickly becoming an adult is essential, not just to the health of your marriage, but also to the well-being of your teen.
Even if you have a relatively well-behaved teenager, it can be a tough time for the entire family. As adolescents gain independence, they’ll make some mistakes, test limits and disagree with their parents. It’s important that parents work together as a team to ensure their teen is ready to become a responsible adult.
Identify Your Goals
Talk together about what your goals are for your teen. Often, couples agree on the basics, they just don’t agree on how to get there. When you revisit your goals, it can help you work together on a plan to ensure your teen is learning what he needs to while he’s still under your roof.
For example, if one partner wants their teen to be able to go out with friends more often and the other partner doesn’t, they can talk together about their goals. Ultimately, they may both want their child to be more responsible but just struggle on how much freedom to give.
Work together on setting some rules. It’s essential that you present a united front to your teen. So, even if you don’t agree on all the rules, back your partner up.
Set rules about big issues, like curfew, driving privileges, chores and homework. Also discuss what the consequences will be for breaking the rules.
If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, agree to experiment with rules to see what happens. Agree to try what your spouse wants and if it works, great. If it doesn’t, come back together to talk about changes you’d like to see.
Hold Family Meetings
Meet together with your teen on a regular basis. Monthly or even weekly family meetings can be helpful. Discuss what privileges your teen wants to earn and how your teen can earn them. Review what is going well and give your teen credit for the things he’s doing well.
Make it clear how he can earn more privileges. For example, if he shows responsibility with his chores, consider extending his curfew. Or if he is taking more initiative in getting his homework done, allow him to spend more time with friends.
Also, discuss what isn’t going well. If he’s falling behind in school, try to work together on a plan to address it. Allow your child to give you input and ideas about what would be helpful.
Meet Privately as a Couple
It’s equally important that you and your spouse meet together privately to make decisions as a couple. Don’t agree to any major changes at the family meeting. Instead, say that you’ll discuss it and offer an answer later. That will give you time to review the pros and cons of making changes to the rules or privileges as a couple.
When your teen asks you a question like, “Can I go to the prom after party?” don’t give an answer until you’ve consulted with your spouse. Teens know who is the most likely to give in to what they want so don’t think they haven’t planned which one of you to ask. That’s why it is essential that you both present a united front, otherwise your teen may come between you.
Holding meetings can also make sure that both of you are involved in parenting. Sometimes, one parent becomes uninvolved either due to not being in the home as much due to work or other responsibilities or due to feeling left out. When this happens, one parent becomes the primary parent and it can cause a big strain on the relationship. Making decisions together will help both of you to stay equally involved.
Getting Professional Help
Unfortunately, the strain of raising kids can sometimes be too much for a couple to handle. This is especially true when parents are dealing with an out of control teen. It can also be increasingly difficult when one parent is not the biological parent.
Professional help in the form of counseling can assist couples in working together to parent a teen. Sometimes family therapy is warranted to assist parents with improving their relationship with their child as well. Seek professional help if the stress of parenting is causing relationship problems or if you are feeling overwhelmed with parenting responsibilities.