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Tuning into Teens: Divorced Mothers Perfect their Parenting

Barbara Bensoussan

The teenage years are perhaps the most difficult stage for parents, but this challenge is magnified for single parents. Here, single mothers share their struggles and fears about raising teenage children, along with practical advice to get through the hard times — whatever your family dynamic

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

icons with pointerAny parent will tell you, raising teenagers is challenging. But for a single mother, parenting teens is like entering a boxing ring with one hand tied behind your back. With a divorced mom’s obvious handicap — one man down — typical teenage difficulties become inestimably more complicated:

“How do I maintain a loving relationship with my teenager?” “How can I stay close when he pulls away? Distance myself when she craves constant attention?” “Should I respond to inappropriate behaviors?” “Can I give my teenager more freedom and independence — like getting her a cell phone — but also keep her safe?” These types of questions, on the minds of all parents, particularly plague single moms, who have no one with whom to ride out the wave of this turbulent period.

“It’s hard enough raising teens when there are two parents,” points out Rabbi Dovid Greenblatt, a respected teacher and administrator of several notable charitable funds, including those targeting single mothers. “Raising teens is even harder when there aren’t two parents contributing, and parents are struggling emotionally and financially. The kids are also hurting; if they had any issues before the divorce — ADHD, learning [disabilities, emotional or physical] problems — these will be exacerbated. In fact, sometimes having a child with issues contributes to the stresses that lead to divorce.”

Thankfully, single mothers do have resources for support and assurance. The challenges of single parenting were a chief focus at the recent annual Shabbaton for single mothers sponsored by the organization Sister to Sister, a support network for divorced Jewish mothers. Amid delectable meals and much-needed inspiration, the 300 attendees benefitted from parenting workshops by distinguished mechanchim and rabbanim. Not surprisingly, the most sought-after seminars were those addressing the complexity of raising teenage children.


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