Thousands of demonstrations are taking place nationwide as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. These protests most recently sparked after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Many demonstrations and protests are carried out peacefully nationwide. Others, like some in Charlotte, have turned violent and led to riots. This all comes as COVID-19 is still a concern, especially with large crowds. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve spoken with separated and divorced parents who have teenagers planning to take part in these events. Some parents are concerned about their child’s safety and are questioning their attendance. As a Mediation and Collaborative Law divorce attorney, they’ve asked me how they should handle these types of situations with their teens and co-parents.
As a mother and stepmother of teenagers and young adults, I know and understand the many struggles of parenting and co-parenting. It can certainly be difficult when it comes to making tough decisions, enforcing rules, and handling outcomes. It can be an increasing challenge when you have to consider the potential differing opinions and thoughts of other parents too. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind when considering your child’s involvement in a protest, or any other event, while under a shared parenting agreement:
Having an Initial Conversation:
Do talk to your co-parent: If your child approaches you about joining a protest, first and foremost, talk to your co-parent. As with Collaborative Law and mediation, communication is key. This applies to families that are separated or divorced. If you and your co-parent have different opinions on any topic, you should discuss it prior to bringing your child into the conversation.
Don’t bring it up to your child first: If you’re going to the protest, it’s not appropriate for you to ask your child to join you without talking to your co-parent first. Not doing so can create unnecessary conflict if they have a different opinion. If your co-parent disagrees or has concerns, your child is already involved in the conversation. That means it will likely be more difficult to come to an agreement or resolution.Handling
Do review your parenting agreement: If you and your co-parent disagree on the issue, you may need to look back over your parenting agreement. If you can’t come to a compromise, the decision could come down to who has custody that day, meaning they get to make the decision. If it continues to be a battle, you may need to bring in a third-party mediator or attorney to help you come to a resolution.
Don’t back your co-parent into a corner: Even if you disagree, don’t make you co-parent out to be the enemy. Let’s say your ex-husband doesn’t want your 17-year-old daughter to go the protest, but you want her to go. Since it’s your custody weekend, you’re allowing her to go with her friends. As with any parenting disagreement, don’t talk poorly about your co-parent. Just because they have a difference of opinion, don’t share your animosity toward your ex to your child.
Allowing Them to Go:
Do create an agreement: If you and your co-parent decide to allow your child to attend the event, work together to create a plan that will address safety and communication. Know who they’ll be with, where they’ll be located, and when they’re expected home. Ask your child to share the contact information of the friends they’ll be with so if you don’t hear from them, you can reach out to someone they’re with during the event.
Don’t make communication more important for one parent: When creating this type of agreement, be sure your child understands that both parents should stay updated and informed. Don’t encourage them to communicate more often with one parent. Open communication could be beneficial here, maybe even a group text. From there, consider setting expectations when it comes to checking in and create a timeline for when both parents can expect a text or call from them.
Not Allowing Them to Go:
Do offer them an alternative way to express themselves: If your child wanted to protest for this cause, or any cause, they obviously want their voice to be heard. As a way to continue to respect their perspective, talk with your co-parent how you can both help your child make a difference without attending a protest.
Don’t make them feel like their perspective isn’t important or valued: Just as you want your child to empathize and respect you and your co-parent, it’s important that you and you co-parent do the same for your child. No matter their age, they have feelings, opinions, and passions. Understanding and supporting that will continue building a positive relationship for your entire family.
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Note: This blog is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.