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How co-parents can model a healthy relationship for their teens

Divorcing parents of teens often face the challenge of ending their marriages just as their children are entering into their first romantic relationships.

Talking to teens about relationship issues and what's necessary for a health relationship can be challenging under any circumstances. However, if the teens grew up with parents who had conflict-ridden and perhaps even toxic relationships, you may feel like you have no business offering advice. Even if you do, they might not listen to you. If you and your co-parent still don't get along, it can be even more difficult to help your teen develop healthy relationships when they begin dating.

The best thing you and your co-parent can do for your teens is to model a healthy co-parenting relationship. Even if the two of you find it hard to be in the same room with each other, you can find other ways to communicate so that you form a united front for your children.

Showing respect for one another is key. That means not criticizing your co-parent to or in front of your kids. If they see their parents have respect for one another, they're more likely to expect it -- and give it -- in their own relationships.

Encourage your teens to talk to you and answer their questions. Just because your marriage ended doesn't mean that you don't have good advice to give. You shouldn't go into detail about what happened in your marriage or blame your ex. Remind them that all relationships have ups and downs. Even if you're determined never to remarry or have a serious relationship again, don't pass that cynicism on to your teen.

If you and your ex are having difficulty co-parenting your teen as they enter this challenging phase, you might benefit from some relationship counseling. Plenty of divorced couples seek therapy together so that they can be better parents. This can also show your kids that the two of you are willing to work on your relationship as co-parents even though you're no longer married. Your family law attorney can likely recommend one or more therapists in your area who work with divorced parents.

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