You bring your children into the world. You love them, nurture them and pour your heart and soul into their development. You watch them slumbering in their beds late at night. You see their joy in running through sprinklers, playing dress up and being carefree. You sit back and realize that moments like this are the reason you became a parent. Then adolescence hits and you wonder what alien abducted the person who used to be your sweet baby.
The Teen Years
Inevitably, all kids turn into teenagers. With adolescence come physical changes – so many that your teenager is barely recognizable. Friends take a front seat to everything else including school, chores and family time. You begin to wonder if your teenage daughter will ever lift her face from her cell phone long enough to offer anything more than a grunt in reply to a question you’ve just asked.
Perhaps the biggest and most dramatic change takes place within the adolescent brain. Experts tell us that during this stage of life, the human brain starts to rewire itself. It is during this process that teens find themselves wanting autonomy and begin to pull away from their family in an attempt to become their own person and seek their own identity. This change will continue until your child’s mid-twenties and can create the perfect storm for teens and parents to collide.
Raising teenagers with a partner is tough enough, but if you’re a single parent, you may find yourself pulling out more hair than the average mom or dad. If you don’t have an effective co-parenting relationship with your ex, then the process of parenting your teen can seem overwhelming. Many single parents find themselves at this stage of life feeling alone and without reinforcements. However, you actually have more help than you think.
This is a time to rely on the community that God has placed around you. Family, friends, youth pastors and coaches are all great resources for you as a single parent raising an adolescent. Don’t feel that you have to do it all on your own. The proverb that it takes a village to raise a child is true, especially when you’re parenting solo. Reach out to those around you and let them know you need their support.
Finding Common Ground
Teens and adults have been at odds for generations. Think back to when you were a teenager and how you responded to your own parents. Chances are you were on opposite sides of the spectrum when it came to music, clothing, hairstyles or what words you used to communicate; “neat” became “rad,” which is now “sick.” If you’re not speaking the same language, how on earth can you connect?
Take time to find common ground with your ever-changing teen. This could be sports, a TV show, scouts, video games or even rock climbing. Regardless of how you connect, the most important thing is that you make time to connect often and on their level. Your adolescent child needs to know that even though they are growing into an adult, you are still there for them. This can be difficult as a single parent who struggles with work, grocery shopping and paying the bills, but it is a priceless investment into your child’s life.
It isn’t all fun and games to parent a teen, however. Healthy and realistic boundaries need to be in place for your teenager to thrive. Yes, those boundaries will be challenged, but set your resolve to stay on point with a strong parenting plan. Keep God at the center of your parenting decisions and He will direct your path. Make sure that you are connected to scripture reading, church and other Christian single parents. These three things will be a strong anchor when storms arise.
Raising teenagers can be messy business and you’re bound to make mistakes. That’s alright! There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so try to relax. We’re all doing our best to figure it out together. In a few years when you’re past this stage of life and your kids look back on your parenting, they’ll thank you for the time you connected with them and for the boundaries you set.
Remember, the days are long but the years are short.