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Creating a parenting plan for your teen

Parenting plans should focus on the best interests of the child, and when children are young, that may seem fairly straightforward. A structured schedule is healthy and helps children feel safe, and California courts provide suggestions and samples of schedules that can assist parents.

Although teens also benefit from structure, their lives and needs are already changing drastically. Add a parenting plan into the mix and a teen could find the schedule frustrating and restricting to the point of distress. Here are some factors to consider when creating a co-parenting schedule for a teen.

Get the teen’s input

While it may be better not to include a child in the parenting plan discussion, it is crucial to include a teen. This stage of development involves attempting to become independent, and a schedule that separates a teen from established friendships or isolates him or her can lead to resentment. Peer relationships are essential for healthy social development, and teens need to be able to spend time with their friends. 

In addition to social activities, a teen's schedule typically involves more school and work than time with family. Parents should take into account that even if they had stayed together, the amount of time spent with the teen would still diminish during these years.

Include parental involvement

The parents' goal should be to support teens in their quest for independence without tossing aside the structure they still need. Enforcing rules that are consistent in both households is one way to provide that structure.

Even though a teen's schedule may seem too full for family, he or she still needs both parents. To support teens without encroaching too much, parents should take every opportunity to insinuate themselves into activities, such as attending sporting or academic events, or providing transportation to friends' houses, work or school. The important thing is for teens to have quality time with each parent.

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