The needs of our kids continue to evolve as they grow. Would you ever let these needs interfere with your time together?
Among the many challenges of co-parenting is simply the fact that we want our children to be as happy and comfortable as possible and to be able to feel at home in either parent’s home, despite the fact that they travel between parents on a frequent basis. Most of have bedrooms set up with everything our children need and want, including clothes, and the usual comforts we all expect of home sweet home so that our kids have a place to play, sleep, and spend time with us.
I hear some divorced parents refer to their house as the home for the children, even when kids spend equal amount of time in each residence; but, if our arrangement calls for anything close to 50-50 we should hope for our kids to experience a sense of security and belonging at all times instead of wishing for them to be perpetually homesick and uprooted just so we can be the most popular- right?
I digress, though that will be a great discussion for another day!
My point is that we do our best to create a home for our kids even if it’s not the home they always knew or the place where they will spend all their time. In my opinion, that need continues, even as our children grow. Some of their basic needs, such as a bed, clothing, and other basic needs, will continue to be necessities, no matter their age, while other things will change over time.
For instance, a teen’s changing needs as they begin puberty means it’s essential for parents to keep up with those needs.
We can argue about what constitutes a “necessity” versus a “want.” Almost any teen will tell us that they need to have a cell phone (and don’t even think you’re getting by with some old flip phone!), video game system, internet, and all the newest fashions.
I’m here to tell teens that humans survived for thousands of years without taking selfies or owning an X Box. I know they think they “need” all this stuff, but I’ll leave the decision to purchase these items up to their parents. What I will advocate for strongly is a young lady having a supply of feminine hygiene products, a young man having razors, and so on. When they were babies they needed diapers, now that they’re growing up, the list changes!
A young lady, around 23, who works in my building was recently describing her childhood to a co-worker. When asked where she grew up and went to school, she explained that her parents were divorced and lived in neighboring towns. For all of her growing up years, she alternated between homes until she became a teenager and started wearing make-up and styling her hair. She shared that she had all the beauty supplies she needed at her mom’s house, but not at her dad’s, so she stopped going to her dad’s!
I didn’t detect a hint of true animosity toward her father, and she made it clear that they maintain a good relationship and she still saw him during the rest of her high school career. I found myself surprised that something as simple as a curling iron and eyeshadow could have disrupted regular visitation with one parent, then I reflected on what it was like to be a teen girl ages ago.
Oh, yes, I was that girl in the late 80’s early 90’s burning up the ozone layer with Aquanet hairspray and frying my permed tresses with my Benders curlers! I never wore a lot of make-up, but I was seriously concerned with my fashion. If someone had told me that on alternating weeks I would have to go to school with flat hair and wearing something, not from the Limited, I would have probably locked myself in my bedroom!
No offense to either my mom or dad, but fitting in was so important during that stage of my life, that not having what I needed to put my best foot forward would have created great anxiety and frustration for me! So, I could halfway see where this young lady was coming from, although I think it was sad that it impacted her family relationship.
I think of my own pre-teen daughter. She likes cute clothes and sometimes experiments with make-up, but she’s not in full-blown teen mode, insisting on having her look on fleek at all times. I see a definite difference in things I buy and provide for my kids versus what their dad does. There’s nothing wrong, in theory, with the choices he makes. She may care more, at some point, and this may become a bigger issue. We’ll see!
For some kids, their “necessities” might include stylish clothes, while for others it might be having materials to support their favorite hobbies like art supplies, sporting equipment, and so on. Every child and what makes him or she feel happy is unique!
So, kids and parents in this kind of situation are faced with a few options:
The child could be allowed to take their chosen items back and forth (I know, I know! This causes a firestorm of conflict over who paid for it, fears of things getting lost, or disgust because the other parent won’t buy their own! The question seems to be “whose stuff is it, anyway?” Mom might have paid for it, so is it the child’s property or does it belong to mom’s home?)
Both households could keep a supply of what the child desires on hand (seriously, I don’t think it would be that hard to run down to the drugstore and let her pick out some nail polish, hair styling equipment, and make-up if that’s going to help her feel complete. No, I did not suggest dropping several hundred dollars on some fancy pants high dollar cosmetics, unless that’s what everyone chooses to do!)
The child could remain at the one home that supports their needs (this is drastic, folks, and should be considered a last resort! It would be preferable for a reasonable compromise to be reached by all instead of giving in to demands of a spoiled child who demands something unreasonable or punishing one parent who is unable to keep up with what their co-parent is able to do.)
Some parents (and kids!) will use life transitions and co-parenting conflict as an opportunity to play games. It’s reasonable for both parents to have a say and agree to such things as wearing make-up, dating, driving, and other major decisions regarding their child. Some parents will try to win favor by bribing kids with things they know the other parent can’t or won’t provide, just as some kids will play parents off of one another to have more money spent on them (or to watch the fireworks!).
It’s important to differentiate between actual needs of the child and other things that are within reason versus over the top “you wish” items kids think they need. We can’t lose sight of the fact that the needs of kids change over time. Kids are very costly, even when they’re not involved in multiple activities, and they deserve for us to keep up with those needs the best that we can. Each parent’s standards will determine what is spoiling and what is typical.
The best place to start might be a conversation with your child to discuss how things are changing in their life and how you can support them. Your child might not want anything more than your love and understanding; but, don’t be surprised if they are interested in whatever form of entertainment, fashion, or communication their peers are into.
Are you in tune with the person your child is becoming so that you can provide what they need to feel comfortable in your home? Would you ever let something as simple as not having reasonable provisions for them in your home interfere with visitation to the point where they stop staying in your home?