A Special Note for Divorced Parents
Since I have been involved in
the area of driving contracts and parenting new drivers, one of the
most challenging questions I get comes from divorced parents. The
divorced parent I hear from is usually a person who is strongly
committed to a safer approach to parenting their teen driver, but the
ex-spouse is unwilling to cooperate. In some cases, the ex-spouse
purchases the teen a car without consulting the other parent. Most
often, the ex-spouse is unwilling to cooperate with enforcing the rules
of the contract while the teenager is staying with him or her.
Sometimes, of course, this seems like a ploy on the part of the ex:
"I'm the nice parent and your mother/father is mean and unreasonable."
Of course, as with all
post-divorce issues, there is typically no easy answer to this kind of
problem. As a divorced parent concerned about safety, you have these
options to consider when your ex-spouse is uncooperative.
1. Communicate with your
ex-spouse verbally or in writing about your intention to insist on a
driving contract. Keep him or her fully informed. Provide copies of
the contract, seek the ex's feedback, provide supporting information
(from this website, if you wish) about why you think it is important.
Indicate that you think it is a life-or-death issue and you want to
work cooperatively to present a united front, at least on this issue,
with your ex.
2. If your ex is not "with the
program," enforce the contract when your child is with you. Tell your
child you expect him or her to abide by the rules of the contract even
when he or she is not with you, whether or not your ex agrees or will
cooperate. You will be less capable than usual to enforce the
contract, but it may be all you can do.
3. Try to anticipate problems.
For example, let your ex know in advance that you not allow your
teenager to drive an inappropriate vehicle, inappropriately early.
Warn your teenager about this, too. If your ex surprises you by
buying junior a brand new hot car on his 16th birthday, do not allow
him to drive it while he is with you. If, over time, you find that you
can contract with your teenager in a way that makes it acceptable to
you to start driving the car, go ahead and enter into that agreement.
4. You may end up feeling like
the "mean parent." Your teen may certainly want you to feel this way,
in hopes you will back off your stance regarding driving. Don't go
there. Remember what is at stake here. This is not about how your
teenager feels about you. It is about potentially saving your child's
Go back to "Getting Tough"