Being a single parent inherently comes with challenges. As a counselor, often single parents ask what mistakes they need to avoid when parenting their teenager. Many single parents are concerned about any consequences of their divorce that could negatively affect their teenager. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
Mistake 1: Lying to them
Honesty is always best, especially when parenting teenagers. First, today’s teenagers are quite savvy and know when they are being conned. Also, dishonesty only destroys trust, which is something that is needed most during this transitional time.
Mistake 2: Avoiding discipline
Wherever there is a lack of any discipline, there is manipulation. Dictionary.com provides this definition of discipline, “Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.” Notice the emphasis on improved character rather than punishment.
Mistake 3: Eliminate any structure or routine
Divorce is a transitional time for everyone involved. Each person’s routine is adversely affected. A structured home environment filled with routines and chores provides a sense of order and ownership. This is beneficial particularly if there is chaos resulting from the divorce.
Mistake 4: Forget about them
As a single parent, you are forced to wear many hats and fill many different roles – often simultaneously. In addition, you are in the midst of trying to provide a stable home environment, work full time, and recover from the emotional adjustment of a being a single parent. In the midst of this, I encourage you to find some time to be intentional on spending time with your teenager on a regular basis. Help them to see that you are available to them, and concerned about any needs they may have.
Mistake 5: Continue fighting with your former spouse
If a marital relationship has been turbulent, then many teenagers anticipate a divorce will bring about a much needed sense of peace. However, if conflict continues after divorce has been finalized then your teenager may experience some emotional difficulty adjusting to the divorce. As much as you are able, try to keep any discussions with your former spouse cordial and focused on your teenager.
Mistake 6: Don’t get them any outside help
Divorce can affect teenagers in many different ways. Some may open up emotionally and sharing their feelings freely. However, others may withdraw from family and friends and become reclusive. Others may enter into some behavioral problems that may have not been there before. If you have any concerns about how your teenager is recovering from the divorce then I encourage you to seek out a qualified professional counselor.
Mistake 7: Assuming nothing is wrong
Another common parenting mistake is to assume that your teenager has been completely untouched by the divorce. There lives seem undisturbed as if the divorce is a minor incident in the tapestry of their lives. And this is true for many teenagers. However, there are others that will give the appearance that all is well, when in fact the opposite is the case. They may do this to save face for them, or they can react this way to give their parents one less thing to worry about. Communicate with your teenager on an ongoing basis about his/her feelings about their new life and its challenges.