Better, Not Bitter:
Is This Group The Most Stressed-Out? Um… YEAH!
It’s official. And I wasn’t surprised at all. According to the the results of a nationwide poll conducted by National Public Radio (NPR), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, single parents and parents of teenagers are among the seven most stressed out groups of people in America.
Of course, as a divorced, single mom of two offspring, one of whom is 16, I didn’t need a study to tell me what I live on a daily basis. I understand all the issues about parenting a teenager. Driver’s licenses. Dating. School and homework. Friends, mean girls and bullying. Drugs and alcohol. And even the more mundane issues like trying out for sports teams or taking standardized tests and SATs.
To those of us raising teenagers the fact that more than a third of those surveyed responded that they had high levels of stress in the month prior was probably something we can all relate to. But I think every stage of parenting has it’s own level of stress. The difference in teens and younger children is the level of rebellion and quest for independence they express.
As the experts in the article advise, the “constant questioning and challenging” is a good thing. It means we parents are doing the right thing. We are helping our children learn to make decisions and weigh consequences so they will know how to handle challenges as they become adults. The stress arises when they feel we’re exerting too much control. And that is where the interactions sometimes get ugly and our stress levels rise even further.
As single parents, our concerns and self-doubt are even higher because we’re making a lot of these decisions on our own. Or even if they are joint decisions, since the kids primarily live under our roof, we’re the ones who have to manage and enforce the rules.
So what do the experts suggest to help parents alleviate our levels of parental stress? They suggest two tips to help us deal. The first is to work with other parents for support regarding concerns and the decisions you’re considering about your teen. The second is a recommendation that I heard from over a hundred single moms raising teens – spend one-on-one time alone with your teen. Cut off the cellphones, video games and computers. Just “being there,” makes a big difference.
I know that giving my son my undivided attention with the cellphones on silent has helped us communicate a lot better. He didn’t like it at first, but finding time to do things like cook together or fold laundry have helped to dial back the drama.
Do you find living with a teen to be super-stressful sometimes? Share your tips for handling the blow-ups in the comments – let’s do like the experts suggest and support one another!