Adolescence brings its share of worries: opposition, isolation, drugs, questions about sexuality… And when you're a single parent, it can be even more difficult to deal with this period. In France, the number of single-parent families with a child over 9 years old is approximately 75%. There are therefore quite a lot of single-parent families with a teenager or pre-teen!
Taking care of a teenager every day may seem easy, as you are now with an independent person, who (normally) does not need your help to take a shower, to eat or to go to bed. However, there are other aspects to this responsibility. Here are some tips to help you.
The particularities of teenagers
Adolescence is a complex period of life and parents of teenagers sometimes find it difficult to understand the changes in their children.
During this period, a young adult forges his own personality, which sometimes leads him to confront and test the limits of adults, especially his/her parents’. Teenagers may question everything the adults say, criticize their way of life, examine the actions of their parents to point out their mistakes. This period is difficult to manage especially for a single parent. It is not easy to take some distance when you are alone with your teenager!
It is important to remember that what you are going through is normal, even if it is not easy to deal with. Here are some tips to help you if you are a single parent.
Tip #1: Your child is growing up, give him some space
Your teenager is no longer a child, and you have to accept that. He/she needs more independence, to spend time with his/her friends, to do things outside of home. That doesn't mean you do not have to worry anymore! You still need to know where your child is, tell him/her at what time to come home etc. Make it clear that independence is fine, but that there are some conditions. Teenagers need some boundaries to feel safe.
Tip #2: Connect with your teenager
Take every opportunity to talk with your child. Teenagers tend to isolate themselves, and do not like their parents to be too intrusive with them. That is normal. But it is important to maintain a good connection. If you notice that your child is interested in something, take some interest in it too! He/she tells you about a movie he/she liked? Even if you do not like this type of movie, ask him/her about the story, the reason why he/she likes it etc. You can do the same thing for music or sports of course.
Tip n°3: Set your limits
Don't let everything pass, set your limits! If your teenager does not respect you, for example, it is important to react firmly, because this type of attitude is not acceptable. Your child doesn't need a friend, but an adult figure to rely on.
Tip n°4: Ask the other parent for some help
If you are raising your child alone, but the other parent is still present, do not hesitate to ask for his/her help when you face difficulties. Even if you are separated or divorced, it is important to agree on certain rules, as much as possible. Do it for your child! He/she will feel better if the rules of both parents are similar.
Tip #5: Contact a professional, if necessary
If the situation is really complicated and you feel that it is too difficult to deal with it on your own, you can ask for help from a professional. A psychologist or a family mediator can help you take a step back to find solutions. Do not hesitate!
Tip #6: Be kind to yourself
Finally, don't forget to be kind to yourself. Being a parent is a difficult and demanding task and being a solo parent is quite a challenge! It is alright to be tired, to have doubts, or moments of discouragement. Do not feel guilty about it. No one is perfect and that is fine!