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Smells like…..teen spirit

Parents and teensagers with internetBest advice you can give a teenager?   “Get a job, leave home and start paying bills…..quick, while you still know everything that there is to know”.

The advice is as pertinent in my household as it is all over the country because it appeals to what some may call our sense of irony and to what a teenager would call sarcasm or “whatever”.

And yet, and yet… there are so many clients who come to me asking about the urban myth that once a child is 13 years he or she can decide with whom they want to live or when and how they visit their other parent.  I think the clue to the question is the way I presented it – it’s urban myth. If a Judge is asked to decide an issue in a child’s case, that judge is required to look at the wishes of a child, in the light of their age or understanding.  Put crudely, a teenagers’ wishes  count when they are blessed with sufficient intelligence.

Recent changes to the Law have meant that the terms “Residence” and “Contact” have been replaced with the more wordy but less controversial terms of  “A Child Arrangements Order” setting out the parent with whom the child usually lives and the parent with whom  the child will have contact.  A court can still ask a child for their wishes and feelings, something usually set out in a Court Report requested by the Judge in a case.  The new terminology won’t necessarily help a teenager but it may help them feel as though any wishes or feelings they express will not make them label their parents.

Let’s not overlook a teenager’s choices in cases that involve them, but let us not overplay it either.  They have enough to cope with  at puberty, let alone having to make major life-changing decisions.  Just consider everything else they have to do, such as studying for exams, tying their own shoe-laces, learning how to be attractive to boys/girls whilst  unlearning all that they were taught about personal hygiene and dress, growing their hair into inappropriate shapes and lengths and generally going around bemoaning their lot by writing bad poetry/songs/diary entries.

“I don’t like the title of your blog” says my son, idly looking over my shoulder as I type.

Emotional male teen


“It says we smell.”

“It’s the title of a song by Nirvana – you know the famous …”

“He just doesn’t like it” interjects my husband.

Oh well he’d be right then wouldn’t he,  my teenage son, I ponder quietly to myself,  what with him knowing everything that there is to know.