PARENTS | Amy Lee Ellowitz
As a single parent, I’ve learned that communication is tremendously important, challenging though it may be. My daughter Hannah and I butt heads because we are both stubborn; conflict most often arises because we both have strong opinions. We rapidly become two talking heads. But at the end of the day, the glue that keeps us together is the fact that we both respect each other tremendously as women and as human beings.
The reality is that Hannah most often makes sound decisions. Likewise, she knows that I put a great deal of thought behind every rule and consequence. So when things begin to get heated between the two of us, I try to take a deep breath and acknowledge how much I admire the young adult she is becoming. She is no longer my complete responsibility. My role is becoming less and less about managing and more about supporting her choices as well as her consequences. Less talk and more listening is most often all that is needed to move forward. It is the bittersweet part of letting go, but the reward is an ever-increasing amount of mutual respect that makes being a parent my best gig yet.
Amy Lee Ellowitz, MSW, ACE CPT, counsels and supports women in their journey to holistic wellness. Amy lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Find out more about Amy by visiting www.amyellowitz.com
TEEN | Hannah Ellowitz
People always tell me that I look like my mom, which is actually quite flattering, but one quality we both share on the inside is our strong opinions. And we’re willing to fight for them. This trait can work both for and against me. It makes me a passionate and independent woman. But I can also be quite stubborn when it comes to ruthlessly defending my opinions on different subject matters.
I’ve learned that communication isn’t limited to just being verbal. For example, one thing my mom always communicated to me through her actions was the importance of religion. She sent me to religious school for years, and although I didn’t particularly love attending, I knew it was important to go because she had communicated it to me through our family’s involvement in our synagogue.
Going back and forth between my mother and father’s houses presents some challenges. I’ve had to work on my communication, whether it be notifying my mom where I’m going after school or reminding my dad to turn in forms for a school field trip. It would definitely be easiest to put both parents in a group chat to keep them updated on my busy life between school, rehearsal, and friends, but instead I choose to spare everyone the drama. I’ve had to learn to communicate with both sides separately to keep everyone in the loop. One strange habit I had to learn was calling/texting one parent when I was staying over with the other. My parents can both get very territorial with my siblings and me, so spending time with both parents in one weekend can be tricky. However, it is extremely important to keep moving forward and communicate with everyone to avoid misunderstandings and excess drama.
Hannah Ellowitz is a junior at American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida. Hannah is also president of Center Stage Youth Council at the Florida Children’s Theatre. Hannah hopes to pursue a BFA in Musical Theatre.
EXPERT | Dr. Tori Cordiano
Parenting teens can be tough in any family situation and presents unique challenges in single-parent families. Clear, fair communication between single parents and their teens helps to pave the way to a trusting relationship that withstands the ups and downs of adolescence.
Though single parents often enjoy a close relationship with their teens that comes from being the sole parent in the home, they also feel the weight of making big parenting decisions and the fatigue of raising teens without a partner. Recognizing signs of stress and seeking out opportunities for self-care—a weekend yoga class or coffee with a friend—can help keep stress at bay. It’s also helpful for parents and teens to recognize signs of stress during arguments and call a timeout when needed. Being able to say, “this is getting pretty heated, let’s take some time to cool down and talk again after dinner” is a fantastic way to keep communication fair and civil.
With only one parent in the home, both parents and teens benefit from accessing other sources of support and communication. For single parents, that may be a loyal friend or relative who knows their teen and can help process situations or provide a place to vent about the challenges of raising a teenager. Teens benefit from having other trusted adults in their lives with whom they can share thoughts and spend time. Getting a break from each other makes the time together more pleasant and allows parents and teens to come back to the relationship ready to communicate with regard for the other person.
Dr. Tori Cordiano is a clinical psychologist in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and the assistant director of the Center for Research on Girls at Laurel School.