Kids don’t have any sense until they are about 25.
~Susan S., Mom to me and my 3 sibs
Teens are tough!
Single moms raising teens often have a rough time of it. The struggle of raising rambunctious teens alone can be completely overwhelming and frustrating.
"She’s fine except for her mouth."
Catching up with a single mom friend of mine, talk turned to her children. Her 8 year son was doing well, and her teenager was fine, “except for her mouth.”
Teenagers…get mouthy. It just happens. Teens are beginning to develop reasoning. As we all know, when you begin to develop a new skill, it can be a little messy, a little awkward, and often not very effective. As teens learn to think, increase their desire and ability to be independent, process peer pressure, get bombarded by inappropriate media messages, and deal with chaotic hormones…they often get a little loud. Any one of these instigators can overwhelm a body, and combining all of these can create a situation is that is beyond words. Don’t forget, we also expect them to choose a career and plan the rest of their lives. It's overwhelming.
At their best, teens are creative, thoughtful, caring, and empathetic. Teens are finally at a point where you can have a good conversation, share a good joke, and you can inspire them to think about their futures and the future of the world. After all, they are going to be running it very soon. Teens can be incredible volunteers, and positive role models for both their peers and younger children.
At their worst…teens can be pretty challenging. Temper tantrums, depression, anxiety, defiance, violence, property destruction, self-injury, and self-destructive behavior are all possibilities. Certainly a challenging mix for any parents…let alone one who is trying to hold the fort down on their own Single moms raising teens certainly need a few tricks up their sleeves.
So what CAN you do?
While saying that this “is just a phase and it will pass” sounds cliché, it is a cliché for a reason. It IS a phase, and it WILL pass. Your focus needs to be on making your home as peaceful as possible through this process, and keeping your teen as safe as possible. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. You will need God in your corner, and you will need to pray. You also must nurture yourself. You need to be in top form to get to the other side of this phase with your child.
Your teen is still a child
Teens can be loud, demanding, argumentative, and they often sound and look like adults. Given this, it is very easy to think of them as adults, and to talk to them as if they are adults. They are not adults, they are children. They have only been alive a short number of years, and they do not have fully developed brains yet. You MUST remember that your teenagers are still children. The very best way that I have found to do this is to find a picture of your child, as a child. Find a picture of them looking so loving, so sweet, and so vulnerable that they melt your heart.
For years my son and I struggled. We had such intense arguments. Me trying everything I could think of, often in rapid succession; him afraid, confused, and feeling (I later learned) like he had to “win” the argument. I had been praying for help for years. Finally, I just started praying for him. One day, I was in my basement just puttering around, and there on the floor was a dear picture of my son. His face was so full of love, hope, and joy. I felt such peace, and I felt such hope. Under the constant stress of our relationship I had forgotten the true beauty of my special baby.
When you find that picture of your child, keep it nearby. Look at it many, many times a day. When you talk to your adult-wannabe in the heat of the moment...
talk to the child in the picture
Remember that the angry, yelling, annoying teen in front of you…is really that beautiful sweet little kid on the inside.
By talking to the child inside you will stay calmer, you stop trying to reason with your child, and you will be gentler. For all their huffing and puffing teens need to know that you love them and are still there for them. This is not a message that comes through when you are constantly fighting. As a single mom raising teens you need to remember that you have vested so much into the relationship with your child as a lone parent. You don't want to lose all of that because they are now hormonally imbalanced.
You can only change you
Because I stopped focusing on my crazed near adult, and began to focus on this new image of my sweet child; I began to act differently. I stayed calmer. I didn’t respond to the insults and name calling, I didn’t try to reason, and I ended the conversation when it was over instead allowing it to go on and on, sucking us both dry.
I also took advantage of our down time. When in the car, when making dinner, during any quiet spare moments, I brought up our problems. Slowly, over little bits of time, we talked about our feelings and frustrations. We also established some ground rules for those conversations that became heated. No F-words, no interrupting, no “you always” or “you never”, and no slamming or breaking anything. It was also during these times that we exchanged hugs and “I love you’s”. Disagreements continued, but were less intense. I no longer had to threaten to call 911, and I no longer feared for my safety. The peace in my house eventually returned. We spent three years in therapy, yet…it was this simple straightforward approach, based in love, that made all the difference. Please, give it a try.
"When the children become teenagers, the parents should get divorced. This way the child can go back and forth between the parents and no parent has to spend too much time with the child." ~Bill Cosby
Single moms often live in an isolated world. We do not have the female bonding opportunities of the women before us because we are often just too busy. This isolation can leave us feeling as though our experiences are isolated and we become even more hesitant to open up about our challenges. The less we open up, the less we learn that we are not alone in our struggles. We may feel frustrated, hopeless, ashamed, guilty, and as those feelings fester without expression, our self-esteem and our health become compromised.
You need someone you can call to talk about what you just experienced during an outburst or difficult time. You need to release, you need to vent, and you need encouragement. When boxers hear the bell they go to their corners. Someone gives them a drink, bandages them up, tells them what they did well, and gives them pointers for the next round. You need to find someone who does that with you. While I certainly hope no punches have flown with your teen, I know it can certainly feel like you been beaten up pretty badly. I serve in this role for several of my friends. I have been there and I know how they are feeling and what they are going through. I also have a standing offer to take their children when everyone needs a break.
Childhood is really such a short time. You want to enjoy your children as much as possible, and you want your children to experience as much joy as possible. Single moms can raise teens successfully...and challenging teens can grow up to be wonderful, wonderful people.
You both need to feel and express love in a safe environment. Get help when you need it, get help for your child, reach out to your child after a bad time and be sure to let him or her know you love them very much and that you are not not going to abandon them just because things are difficult. Keep your love for your child foremost in your mind!
Use my 50 Teen Conversation Starters to keep the daily lines of communication open with your child. I offer these conversation starters as a gift to you. Just download here.