The teenage years are difficult for both the kids and the parent. It is a long period of constant changes that are often accompanied by pains, troubles, heartaches and strong negative emotions. As a parent, it is natural for you to want to protect your children from all these, but the fact is that your kids cannot grow up to be a matured and responsible adult if you shelter them too much during their teenage years.
The problems amplify when you are a single parent, because there is just so much to do and there is only one of you. However, there is always solution to every problem, if only you would take a deep breath, relax and figure it out. Let us make things easier for you with 10 helpful tips to raise awesome teenagers as a single parent (you know you can!)
Make communication a top priority at home
Two-way communication is important when you have teenagers. It is important to remember that your children are no longer young children, but half-grown adults with their own opinions, thoughts and ideas for life. Strict instructions no longer work, so practise a two-way communication that involves lots of listening on your part. This method will help you to break the communication barrier. Do not despair if all you get are one word answers at the beginning. Show your sincerity in communicating by respecting your children’s views of things and trying to see things from their perspectives. Even if you do not agree with them, do not start lecturing them. Instead, find out why they view things the way they do and understand the rationale behind it. You might be surprised at what you can discover.
Be a friend to your teenager
Your teenagers need a friend more than a parent at this stage of their lives. If you do not become a friend, you risk pushing away your children. As a single parent, it is common for you to share a close bond with your children. This bond will help to make things easier. Becoming a friend brings you into their world and reduces the need for your children to shut you out of their lives. They will also trust you and confide in you during times of need. So, quit the nagging and yelling. Listen to them, support them, go out for fun outings together and respect their wishes and views.
Make all decisions that affect the family together
As a single parent, you are used to making all the decisions at home. It is time to change that now. Allow your teenagers to make joint decisions with you. It empowers them and makes them feel valued in the family. Any decisions that affect your teenagers in any way should be a joint decision. They could be as simple as dinner location or as major as the next house you are buying. The important factor here is to make them feel involved because it gives them a sense of belonging. As teenagers, it is a big thing to belong somewhere, and you will definitely want them to feel the sense of belonging in the family.
Talk to them about sex and alcohol
Asian culture often makes it difficult for parents to talk about sex. Throw that inhibition out of the window because your teenagers need you to talk about it. Start as early as around 13 to 14 years old because talking about it when your teenager is 16 years old might already be too late in today’s context. The easiest way is to start a conversation with each teenager individually so that he will not feel embarrass to ask questions in front of his siblings. Discuss his feelings towards sex and understand what he knows about it. Encourage him to ask questions and listen to his fears, or perhaps his desire to try it. When you listen and encourage open communication for a taboo topic, your teenager is more likely to open up about his experiences, sexual orientation and even heartbreaks to you.
The same goes for alcohol. While Singapore has strict rules on legal drinking age, it is important to start the conversation while your teenager is still young and impressionable. Explain the dangers of alcohol and teach him how to drink responsibly. If you have a girl, it is a good idea to teach her how to drink in a safe manner in order to protect her from sexual violence. You might even want to consider bringing your teenager out for a night of drinking, just so to introduce him or her to the dangers of overindulgence on drinks.
Focus only on major battles
It is common for you to have arguments with your teenager on what he wants to do. As a single parent, you do not have time for all the dramas, so choose your battles wisely. Decide the things that you should say no, and what you should let go. Getting a tattoo of a dragon on his back might be a resounding “no”, but colouring his hair blue might be something you will allow him to try. Do not exert control over every little detail of their lives, or you will risk souring the close bond that you share with your teenager.
Get to know their friends
The general rule of thumb for parents when it comes to friends is to never tell your teenager that he should not hang around this friend, or he should keep a distance from that friend. You can be sure that your “instructions” will be taken to the other extreme immediately. Instead, try to know the friends that he hangs out with. Invite them over for a dinner date, or perhaps bring them all out for movie night (if your budget allows). Talk to his friends and get to know them. Even if you dislike one particular person, get to know him or her. In this way, you have every reason to speak with your teenager about this particular person and why you dislike him or her at a later time. He might be more inclined to listen if he has seen your earnest attempts at getting to know all his friends before passing judgement.
Make well-defined and reasonable rules
Parenting teenagers are the same as parenting half-grown children. They strive on a set of well-defined and reasonable rules which applies to all the teenagers in the house. Make sure that you do not have different rules for the kids, or you will hear the infamous, “But it is UNFAIR!” statement. Craft a set of common rules and punishments for all of them, and make it clear to all your teenagers. Make sure they understand what the rules are, and what the consequences are if they break the rules. Remember that these rules exist to set boundaries for your teenagers to explore life on their own without exposing themselves to dangers, so, do not set rules which are unreasonable or restrictive. Give them a wide berth, but make sure that the rules protect your teenagers from the dangers of social ills.
Create a game plan with them
It is important to have a game plan when your teenagers are going out late at night. Sit down with them and have an open discussion on how they should seek for help when they find themselves in situations which they are unable to run from. Ensure that the game plan involves telling you where they are going and calling you when things get ugly for them. For example, you can discuss with your teenagers to come up with a secret code word that they can text you with when they need your help to get them out of sticky situations. Remind them that you are always available for them, even if it is 3 am in the morning.
Instil confidence in your teenagers
Confidence is an important element for your children because self-doubt is at an all-time high during the teenage years. Instil confidence in all your teenagers so that they can move forward in life without the fear of rejection. Nonetheless, be careful not to overdo this part to prevent your children from getting overconfident. Teaching them that they can achieve what they set their mind to do should also come with the realistic portion of knowing their strengths and limitations.
Make your teenagers resilient
Allow your teenagers to deal with disappointment, rejections, pain, jealousy and anger in their own ways. While it is important to guide them if they display unreasonable or unwanted thoughts such as suicide, you should not overprotect your teenagers. Allowing them to deal with negative emotions will make them into resilient young adults who can face bigger challenges in their adult lives.
It is never easy to parent teenagers but press on and you will walk out of the teenage years as a better parent.