Raising a teen post separation can be challenging. The following tips will help make being a single parent to teens easier.
1. Catch them when you can! Teens are filled with energy and activities and are usually on the run. A concise, five-minute discussion can be more meaningful than a half-hour talk (which your teen may label "lecture").
2. Stop and talk when your teen wants to share. Kids usually give "clues" when they need your attention. Stopping to sit, listen, look at them and respond communicates that you care and makes it easier the next time one of you needs to talk.
3. Understand their development. They may be experiencing a difficult time, too. They are making decisions about their future, are half "out the door" physically and emotionally, and are struggling to achieve independence. Kids need support and encouragement; let them hear what they are doing right. We often hear, "Just because I am tall doesn't mean I don't need a hug once in a while." When you feel overwhelmed and can't help with a particular situation, teach your teen how to use outside resources such as guidance counselors or clergy.
4. Use "I feel" statements. Use these words rather than "you did or you said" to convey your feelings and give your child the opportunity to respond in a similar manner. Kids at this stage intellectually exercise their abstract reasoning and may question you a lot. To avoid defensive behavior, restrict your communication to the item you are discussing, (e.g. don't bring up past events). Respond specifically to the situation you are discussing and give your child an opportunity to respond.
5. Expect changes in relationships. Often, adolescents miss a relationship with a parent they may not have been close to and may ask to live with that parent to try to achieve a greater degree of closeness. This is not a rejection of the live-in parent, but rather a need for reassurance, love and acceptance from both parents when possible. Share with your child any feelings and concerns you might have concerning a change in his/her living/visiting arrangements.
6. Be honest about your feelings concerning the divorce and try to share them with your teen. This will convey the message that it's OK to share feelings. A helpful reminder: Although you may have gone on with your life and may want to share your dating experience with your teen, your child may still be grieving over the divorce and might resent your dating.
7. Time-outs can do wonders. This can be a volatile stage for teens, and with a major family change, all tempers may be short. During a calm time, discuss strategies to avoid shouting matches. One suggestion: When a person feels like he is losing control, he can signal the other person and talking can cease until both parties are ready to resume.
8. Acknowledge all the positive things you can about your teen as well as the pressures he/she faces.. Just as you have difficult days at work, kids have difficult days in school and on the job. The caring you model will eventually be returned by your teen.