Saturday, October 25, 2014

Changing face of families has big impact on children

12/13/2013

The face of today’s families, gathering for Christmas and other holidays, have a decidedly different look than they did just 10 years ago. Rather than the former standard nuclear family of mom, dad and 2.5 children, a modern family’s composition often includes a combination of his, hers, ours and a hodgepodge of others. The new image is a result of social and cultural changes with fewer couples marrying, former couples now separated or divorced and still others in on-again/off-again relationships.

 A couple’s risk of divorce in the United States is high with challenges, such as the economy, marital infidelity, abuse and other factors all contributing to the sad dissolution of so many marriages. While divorce might be inevitable for some, the unfortunate collateral damage is children who are less able to pattern their own relationships on idealistic ones when they aren’t witnessing success at home. Marriage isn’t the permanent institution it once was, resulting in a range of family arrangements.

The face of today’s families, gathering for Christmas and other holidays, have a decidedly different look than they did just 10 years ago. Rather than the former standard nuclear family of mom, dad and 2.5 children, a modern family’s composition often includes a combination of his, hers, ours and a hodgepodge of others. The new image is a result of social and cultural changes with fewer couples marrying, former couples now separated or divorced and still others in on-again/off-again relationships.

 A couple’s risk of divorce in the United States is high with challenges, such as the economy, marital infidelity, abuse and other factors all contributing to the sad dissolution of so many marriages. While divorce might be inevitable for some, the unfortunate collateral damage is children who are less able to pattern their own relationships on idealistic ones when they aren’t witnessing success at home. Marriage isn’t the permanent institution it once was, resulting in a range of family arrangements.

The statistics are the same here as they are across the country. The census for Franklin County shows 2.51 persons per household — a fractional bit higher than the state average of 2.49 persons.

Today’s families include single-parent head of households, step families, extended families, same-sex couples and unwed partners. Whether children are biologically related to their parents, adopted, foster children, in vitro, produced from a surrogate, living with non-relatives or part of a new marital configuration, focusing on what is right for the involved children and families can create an acceptable new normal.

A story in Tuesday’s Herald was about an Ottawa High School student who now lives with her brother and sister-in-law who took custody of her after their mother experienced substance-abuse problems and her father was in prison. The new family structure, in combination with support at school, helped her thrive. That’s a new normal producing a happy outcome regardless of its alternative non-traditional stance.

No matter how many stockings are hanging on the fireplace mantle for Christmas, recognizing families as unique to each situation and acceptance of those patterns can help normalize the experience for those children and help them realize no one has a perfectly happy family — even among the intact traditional families.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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