Most parents like to think that they know what's best for their children. However, in the aftermath of divorce, children may have an unusual amount of say in the circumstances of their lives. Teenagers, for example, often have a say in where they live, and if they prefer, they may be able to change those living arrangements by leaving one parent for the other.
This can be a scary and emotionally troubling experience for parents in Washington and elsewhere, stirring up a range of emotions and insecurities about their future. Given this tumultuous experience, there are a number of steps parents can take to protect themselves while getting through this process in the best shape possible.
The first step is to call your child's bluff. Don't deny them the right to change their living situation, and don't serve as a roadblock. Standing in their way often only strengthens their negative views, if those exist in the first place. Instead, be accommodating and help your child make the transition. Some will ultimately choose to renege on their decision, but others will be resolute and go through with the move. In either case, support and patience is key.
If the move does become permanent, parents need to set ground rules to maintain contact and their relationship with those children. This requires communication and teamwork by both parents to establish and stick to a schedule. An experienced family law attorney can help you create a parenting plan that considers the best interests of everyone involved.
Meanwhile, the parent who has had the child move on their needs to process and come to terms with the loss -- in private. Exposing children or your ex to the waves of emotions you experience can be detrimental to your relationships, so confide in close friends and learn to accept this major change away from your role as a parent.
Source: Circle of moms, "How to Cope When Your Teen Wants to Move in With Your Ex," Mary Beth Sammons, June 1, 2012