One of the reasons that the preteen and teen years are so fraught with conflict for parents is that kids are seeking more freedom, responsibilities and privileges. Their wishes are often based on what their friends are allowed to do or at what age older siblings were allowed to do or have various things.
It’s never easy for parents to decide when the time is right to let their children stay home alone, have their own cellphone, go to boy-girl parties and more. However, when parents are separated or divorced, these decisions are even more difficult.
It’s always best when parents can agree on when a child is ready to be granted more freedom. Kids need general consistency in rules across their two households. They can understand and adapt to relatively minor differences in rules and expectations in their two homes. However, when it comes to larger issues, like whether they’re old enough to babysit a younger sibling, it’s important for both parents to be in agreement.
Even if they balk at rules and restrictions, it gives them a sense of security that their parents are still a united front as far as their upbringing is concerned — even if they can’t be married any longer. Further, when you and your co-parent agree on how much freedom your kids have, they’re less likely to play you against each other. It’s also less confusing and frustrating for them than different rules and freedoms.
Another reason it can be difficult to give your child the same freedoms across two homes is that those homes are different. Maybe you think your child is perfectly safe riding her bike down the street to the neighborhood grocery store because the street is rarely busy, and it has a well-marked bike lane. However, perhaps your spouse has an apartment in a busy part of town where a bike ride to the nearest store means navigating heavy traffic and perhaps less-than-savory characters.
If you and your co-parent are having difficulty coming to an agreement on when to grant your children new freedoms and privileges, it may be wise to codify these things in your parenting plan. Your attorney can help you do this.