According to Spanish psychologist Dr. Silvia Olmedo, the coming-of-age of single mothers and their daughters can be a daunting process. But if problems are nipped in the bud, the relationship can turn into a camino de rosas.
With a large percentage of Hispanic families being single-parent homes and nearly 52% of Latina teens getting pregnant at least once before age 20 (almost twice the national average), raising a child as a young parent comes with its fair share of obstacles. Faced with the same conflicts as anyone else, single Latin mothers face unique challenges stemming from trying to grow up themselves, as well as the cultural differences with their child.
"During the teenage years there is a disconnect between physical and emotional growth," explains psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Olmedo. "Teens seem to be in a hurry to grow up, but their brains, (specifically the frontal lobe, the part in charge of self-control), do not complete their development until age 25. Kids, and especially girls, are not emotionally ready to face what becoming an adult means, especially if they become pregnant at an early age."
Emotional maturity requires a slow process where age-appropriate experiences combine with the gradual development of the brain as it goes from child to adult. In the case of Latina single moms, raising a child in the US presents its own set of complications, suggests the psychology expert. "Mothers, especially if raised in a Latin country, experience a tremendous lack of connection with American culture, while their children have no problem living in dual environments. This could result in an even larger separation between parent and teenage child," says Dr. Olmedo.
The topic of single Latina mothers is one that isn't being ignored given that one-quarter of all teens will be Latino by 2025. The cultural phenomenon has even been openly discussed by celeb Sofia Vergara, who confessed becoming a parent at 19 wasn't easy, and is also the focus of the upcoming Eva Mendes film "Girl in Progress" about a young mom trying to raise her teenage daughter without the appropriate emotional tools.
See Eva Mendes as a "Girl in Progress":
Tips for building a bridge to reach your teenager:
- DON'T wait until adolescence to start communicating!
- DO Find "common spaces" with your teenager. These are activities you both enjoy doing and give you a chance to share ideas and opinions without judgment.
- DO use a movie to find out more about your teenager without making them feel you're intruding. For example, ask them if they know someone or are friends with kids like the character in the movie.
- DON'T force your children to speak to you or tell you about their lives without establishing common ground first.
- DO speak clearly and frequently about your values and beliefs, the importance of personal responsibility and the consequences to our actions.
Dr. Silvia Olmedo is a Mexico-based psychologist, relationship expert and the best-selling author of "Los misterios del amor y el sexo". She is also the host of Televisa's "Cuentamelo" and appears regularly in the morning show "Hoy".