When you and your spouse divorce, one of the complications that needs to be worked on is a visitation schedule for the children. It can get complicated if your children are in their teens, since you will have to factor in their own social schedule.
Unlike young children, teens have their own agenda and various activities to consider. You may even encounter that they prefer to stay home or be with their friends rather than spend time with you. Here’s how to deal with teenagers and visitation schedules.
- Find out their schedule. Get in writing your teen's school schedule, as well as any after school activities. This way, you can plan activities together beforehand, without interfering with each other’s schedule.
- Write out a regular schedule. Have a calendar listing the days the kids get to be with mom or dad. Having a stable and regular schedule will add much-needed structure to their lives, especially in the first few months after the separation. Letting your kids know what to expect will give them a sense of security and let everyone plan ahead. You can even write down ahead of time where they’ll be for the holidays and summer breaks. Place a “D” for dad and “M” for mom on your assigned days and leave the calendar in a place that is accessible to everyone.
- Get your teens input. Talk to your teens and ask what they would like. Would they prefer every other weekend together with you, or two consecutive weekends in a row? Let your teen have a say in what’s going on, to reduce resentment. Have an open line of communication with your teen, especially since visitation days affect him directly.
- Set a realistic schedule. If you know the kids will be with you for certain days, you need to make sure that you allow enough time for them to be able to complete their school work and devote enough time for extra curricular activities. If your teen has a boyfriend or girlfriend, you may need to allow them time together while under your watch. You don’t have to go to the theme park or go all out, just because the kids are with you. Having a simple dinner together or a movie may be enough, so everyone still has energy to devote to one’s individual interest.
- Discuss the importance of family time. Whether divorced or not, as a parent, you will need to compete for your children’s time. Teens are notorious for having various activities, such as schoolwork, sports, rehearsals, practice, parties and extra curricular activities. You need to talk to your teens, and it is necessary to carve out time together as a family, even if there’s only one parent at a time. Remind them that you too are busy with your work and your personal interests and yet you make time to be with them. This will teach them to prioritize family.
- Be flexible. As much as you try to have a regular schedule, things will always come up that you will need to adjust to, such as business trips, unforeseen sickness and spontaneous vacations. Everyone needs to be open-minded and ready to negotiate days for the sake of peace and harmony.
Don’t let visitation days become fraught with tension. Plan it out properly so that everyone is in agreement.