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Help for Single Moms Raising Defiant Teens

Raising adolescents is challenging, and naturally so. As they become increasingly autonomous, so too can they become somewhat more oppositional. However, dealing with adolescent defiance can be even more challenging for single mothers. The most difficult situation with defiance may be the following scenario: a single mom with a male adolescent - especially if she has more than one adolescent male and there aren’t any father-figures around!!!

Some single parent statistics show the prevalence and challenges of single parenting in America:
  • 23% of teens live with only a mother, 4% live with only a father, and 4% live with neither parent.
  • 3% live with unmarried parents.
  • About 40% of teenagers are born to unmarried mothers.
  • Black teenagers are the most likely to be raised by a single mother, followed by Hispanic, then white teenagers.
  • Teenagers living with only one parent have financial and educational disadvantages compared to teenagers with both parents, especially if their parent is the mother and if she did not finish high school.
  • Slightly more than 1 in 4 teenagers in America is being raised by a single mother.

Parents may be single due to separation, divorce, or death, or they may have never been married. Also, some parents may have a partner who is not able to help with parenting due to a disability or a job that takes them away from their family most of the time. Parents in different situations face different challenges, but in all of these cases, it is hard for both the mother and her teenagers to parent alone.

Having a single parent can be hard on teenagers, who often wish they could have more of their parents' attention and may have emotional issues to work through. Though every situation is unique, here are some tips that may help a single mom with a defiant teen:

1. Be aware of signs of aggression, drug or alcohol abuse, gang affiliation, depression or suicidal thoughts in your adolescent. Talk to him about concerning behavior, and seek counseling if you are still concerned. Many communities have free or low-cost counseling for those who do not have insurance that covers the costs.

2. Be patient with your adolescent when you are starting to date again or getting remarried. This can be a difficult process, and it may take time for her to adjust to it. Keep talking to her about her feelings.

3. Do as much as you can to be supportive of your adolescent’s positive activities (e.g., sports or music). You may not be able to be there for every game or performance, but go when you can, and talk to him about his interests to show that you care.

4. Don't be afraid to seek outside support. Support groups like Online Parent Support can help single parents feel encouraged. Family and friends can also help, and being involved in community or church groups can relieve loneliness for single mothers and give adolescents positive role models.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

5. Don't say negative things about the absent father. This may be very hard, but it's not good for teenagers to hear their mothers say bad things about their fathers, which may lead to feelings of anger and resentment. This doesn't mean the mother should “make up” good things, but they should refrain from saying bad things.

6. Emphasize the importance of education to your teenager. Get help if she is struggling in school.

7. Encourage your teenager to recognize and express his feelings. Younger teens especially may need help recognizing feelings (e.g., sadness, hurt, fear) that can come as a result of the loss of one parent. Even adolescents who grew up not knowing their other parent may at times feel a sense of loss over his absence. It's okay to get help from someone else to talk to your son or daughter, including a relative, clergy member, or professional therapist.

8. Have clear, consistent rules, and enforce the consequences when the rules are broken. It may be especially tempting for a single mom to "let things slide," but it’s very important for adolescents to have clear rules and consistent consequences.

9. If you work in the late afternoon and/or evening when your adolescent is out of school, make sure she has somewhere to go and positive activities to do. The time right after school is when adolescents are most likely to get into trouble, but if they are with a responsible relative or neighbor, or in an after school program, they are less likely to get into trouble. Summer programs are also available in many communities for times when the parent is working while school is not in session.

10. Let your adolescent ask questions and give him honest, age-appropriate answers. Be honest when you don't know an answer (there are some questions only the absent parent will be able to answer).

11. Tell your teenagers every day that you love them.

12. While you may be too busy working and trying to be both a mom AND a dad to spend as much time with your adolescent as you would like, make time for special activities together. Try to eat at least one meal together as a family every day, even if it's breakfast or a late dinner. Also, consider finding one time each week that you can set aside as family time to do fun activities together. Activities don't have to be expensive or elaborate to have a positive impression on your “defiant” teen.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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