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As your teenage daughter stomps off to her room, slamming the door, and yells out, “I hate you” you try to remember the days when she was that sweet, lovable little girl who thought you hung the moon and stars.

I hate you dad!

The unfortunate truth is, those sweet little girls and boys grow up and become teenagers and life as you once knew it changes dramatically.  Dealing with teenagers is tough in the best of situations, but even more challenging as a single parent. 

There are scores of books and literature titled, “How to Deal with a Teenager as a Single Parent” but I have found the best advice is to go with the advice of somebody who has walked that road.  That’s where I come in; I’ve raised three amazing kids, as a single parent, to adulthood and guess what, I survived and so will you.

I could tell you horror stories that will cause you to consider putting yourself into a medically induced coma until your kids reach adulthood, so I won’t go there.  I’ll just tell you that your kids are probably no different than my kids; I just have the luxury of hind sight and proclaiming victory over the battle of the teenage beasts that have invaded your peaceful home.

When talking to your child - Where do you start?

The great thing about having three kids is that your first born is your test subject.  You learn from him and introduce that knowledge onto your other two children.  The problem is how do you live through the test subject?  Being a single parent is tough; I honestly know this, but it’s doable and you will learn many important lessons.  Having lived through this, I will share some important facts that will help you as you enter into this quest. 

The first and most important thing to remember is that he/she is a person who deserves the right to voice his or her opinion.  Far too many kids hold in these emotions until they reach a breaking point and it all explodes; usually on you.  Your first reaction is to yell back, which is the worst thing you can do.  Give your kids the ability to speak their minds but remind them they must always be respectful in doing so.

As a single parent your time is so divided between work, housework, and taking care of the kids.  Often time’s single parents get their priorities out of order and the kids get put at the end of the list.  Parents think they have their kid’s best interest in mind by working hard, taking care of bills, providing a safe and secure household, but they tend to forget that the immediate need of your kids is just spending time with them, listening to them and hearing what they say. 

Don’t wait until the trouble starts; begin when they are still sweet and tolerable and still believe you hung the moon.  If they know you are willing to listen and hear them, this will carry over into those teenage years.  It is also very, very important to set the boundaries early and don’t deviate from those boundaries.  Kids actually desire and need to know what the rules are and they will test these boundaries to see how far they can cross over the line.  It’s imperative that you don’t allow them to cross that line; you have to be strong even in the face of “I hate you”. 

The mind of a teenager

The single parent of a teenager has his or her hands full by trying to figure out what the heck is going on inside the mind of their once sweet and loveable child.  They do leave you clues; you just have to be open enough to read between the lines.  You, as the single parent, know your child better than anybody else and you can tell when something is not quite right with them. 

You should not dismiss abnormal behavior as just normal teenage hormones; you need to ask your kid what’s going on with them.  They may not want to talk about it right then, but they will, at some point, hint about what is bugging them.  Don’t interrogate them; they don’t like that; just ask them if there is something they want to talk about and if they decline, let them know you are there for them if and when they want to talk. 

A fact you should always remember is that teenagers care more about what their peers think than what their parents think.  So, in short, giving them ultimatums and warnings usually don’t work and can actually work against you.  Give your teenagers sound, adult advice and offer your support, but be aware that they will often than not disregard your advice and go with the flow of what their peers are doing.  

Drugs, drinking, and sex

We were all teenagers at one time or another and most of us experimented with drugs, drinking, and sexual activities.  Things haven’t changed much since we were teenagers; what has changed is how society has come to expect this type of behavior from teenagers.  You have to be proactive in getting into your teenagers business.  You are the parent; they are the kid; you make the rules and you have to enforce them. 

You also have to realize that the majority of teenagers are going to experiment with drugs, drinking, and sex; it’s up to you to educate them and prepare them for the consequences of this type of behavior.  If you notice a drastic change in their behavior, it’s time to do some snooping.  They will hate you for it and tell you that you are invading their privacy, but the fact remains that until they are adults and move out of your home, you have every right to get into their business. 

I took a very proactive stance with my kids; I educated them about the consequences of having sex and then provided them with the necessary products for them to use to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  I’ve been scorned many times by people who comment that I am giving my kids permission to have sex.

They don’t need nor will they ask for your permission; they will simply have sex despite your warnings.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that’s how I handled that situation.  My daughter had four friends, whom were raised in a two parent household that became pregnant before finishing high school.  The question is not if they will have sex, the question is when they will have sex. 

The influence of peers

You should make it a point to know who your kids are hanging out with, who their parents are, and know where those friends live.  Go the extra mile and introduce yourself to their parents as well, because they are in the same situation as you; the never ending battle between teenagers and parents.  Set the ground rules and make certain that not only your kids know the rules, but also the friends of your kids know the ground rules. 

Just because you are a single parent does not excuse you from being an informed parent.  The only difference in being a single parent of a teenager is that you are the one who takes the entire backlash from the fall out of your kids’ bad mood.  By being a proactive parent and learning who your kids are hanging out with can prevent your teenager from doing things he or she would not normally do. 

Learning the tricks of teenagers

Teenagers can be selfish, self-absorbed monsters if you allow them to be.  This is where psychology comes in handy.  You have to remember that teenagers are at a certain stage of cognitive growth that tends to make them the way they are.  They really can’t help it; but they will grow out of it.  It is a very confusing time in their lives because they are between being a child and being an adult.

Their purpose in life has yet to be determined by them, and so they define their purpose as what suits them best.  Raising my teenagers as a single parent was at least one hundred times harder than any type of public work I had to do.  It was a never-ending job to keep up with them, watch for signs of trouble, and maintain a semi-peaceful atmosphere at home.  It wasn’t always possible, but I did my best and that’s all you can do as well.

Teenagers will do anything to try to pull one over on you; you have to be one step ahead of them at all times.  If they come home and buddy up with you, there’s a good chance they are up to something.  Don’t ask them “ok, what do you want?” just let it run its course and see where they are going with it.  Most of the time they will want to do something that exceeds the boundaries and when you say “no” that’s when the sweetness ends and the door slamming begins.  Don’t give in; be strong and stick to your rules. 

Many single parents of teenagers will deviate from the boundaries by using the barter system; this is not a wise thing to do.  Kids should know the rules and have designated chores they are expected to do.  Don’t let them pull the “If I clean my room can I go out on a school night?” The answer should be a resounding “no” because keeping their room clean is their responsibility.  Rewarding a kid for behavior that is supposed to be part of their routine will only teach them how to cross the boundaries without consequences.   

The good news and bad news

The bad news is negative teenager behavior generally begins around the age of twelve.  That’s when hormones kick in, puberty rears its ugly head, and suddenly your angle is replaced by the devil.  The good news is, it only lasts for six years.  So maybe that’s not such good news, but the fact remains, if you, the single parent of a teenager, can make it through the first couple of years, you will have learned enough to apply your knowledge to make it through to the end.  I won’t lie and tell you how much I enjoyed those years; they were hell, but I will tell you that I now have three very responsible grown adult children who respect me, love me, and once again believe that I hung the moon.

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