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The Truth About Single Parent Households

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

single_parent_householdThere are plenty of articles out there that spew statistics about the perils of single parent households.  Many of these “sources” go as far as blaming single parents for everything from teen pregnancy to gun violence.  But the truth is always a little more boring than fiction, and these statistics prove that you shouldn’t believe everything you read.  Just like so many other “studies,” the numbers don’t speak to the reality of many single parent households.  Rather, they are skewed to show outcomes that would be just as likely with intact families from a disadvantaged socio-economic background.

This article is not designed to proclaim the advantages of raising children alone, but rather to show the other side of the story.  Make no mistake; divorce still has its costs and it can cause traumatic upheaval among children, particularly when they must move out of the family home and struggle to make ends meet. However, a subject of heated debate is whether it’s better to stay together for the sake of the children or choose a divorce that will give them a less stressful home life.

According to one blogger at the Huffington Post, (“Why Being A Single Parent Is Ideal For Your Child,” by David Wygant, 4/11/2011), living in a home that is free of tension, free of fighting, and free of anxiety gives a child the best chance to blossom as a young person.  However, it is naïve to think that living with only one parent would not present a different set of stresses on the single-parent household.  Every situation is different, yet in some cases it is the better thing to do for the children.

Single parenthood and the American Dream

As someone who has raised two teenage daughters in a single parent household since the ages of two and four, I now understand the challenges that are unique to single parent households and how important it is to go into it with “eyes wide open.”  Single mothers who work full time and attempt to maintain sanity will do better when surrounded by supportive family who can step in and help from time to time.  It may be difficult at first to maintain that balance between nurturer and disciplinarian; breadwinner and cupcake baker; handyman and homework helper, and it is not for the faint of heart, but it is still a rewarding experience.

Few single parents are able to truly “have it all;” at least not in the textbook definition of the American Dream.  This is not to say they cannot be homeowners who take a vacation every year and drive an SUV.  The problem isn’t as much with material wealth as it is with quality of life.  In the effort to give the children everything they would have had if the family stayed together, single parents can burn themselves out and grow bitter over the years.  Instead of getting easier as the children grow, many single parents find it actually gets more challenging.  Kids are no longer sweet and cooperative; they become teenagers who are often self-centered and rebellious, leaving the single parent lonely and disillusioned.

Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it – the American Dream no longer resembles what it was in the mid-20th Century.  Today we have blended families raising kids together, parents who share custody, same-sex couples with children, grandparents raising grandchildren, and every variation in between.  Unless you live in a sleepy bedroom community in Middle America, chances are that you have people from each of these subgroups within your own hometown.  Children can blossom in any and all home environments, as long as their parents are not at each other’s throats.

In his blog for the Huffington Post, David Wygant echoes the sentiments of a growing number of people who believe in single parenthood.  It is not always an accurate representation of the “nuclear family” that makes children thrive; as long as the family unit is strong and the children are able to see a model of love and respect, their child will have a great ability to blossom.  However, when kids see their parents engaged in a constant battle they may lose this opportunity.

The truth about single parents

Contrary to commonly held beliefs, single parents are fully capable of giving their children all the love they need – even if their ex is not involved.  While they may not be able to model an intimate relationship with a spouse for their children to observe, the single parent does have the ability to teach a child about the beauty of life.  The key is to focus on the positive aspects of life after divorce instead of dwelling on the negative.

Single parents who remain angry after a divorce or constantly trash their ex are going to do more harm than good to their child.  This is not to say that the anger and resentment is not justified, but it is far better to model respect for the person you once loved.  If you blame your ex for everything and continue to play the role of the “victim,” your children may grow into adults who blame everything and everyone around them for all their troubles in life.

If you are going through a divorce and raising your children alone, find a support group of other single parents.  Enlist a support network of friends and family who can help you in small ways be a positive parent, and resist the temptation to share adult troubles with a child.  A Colorado Springs divorce lawyer can help you find a group in your area or point you to other important resources for single parents.

Photo Courtesy of Photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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