Single-parent families

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2000

Nowadays, it is quite common to talk about the problems

of single-parent families.

These problems usually center on the disadvantages to children.

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This focus may lead some single parents to throw up their hands in despair.

We know someone who grew up in a single-parent family that turned out all right.

Instead of focusing only on their weaknesses and problems, the family will do well to realize and build on their own strengths to develop an effective family.

There are seven benefits to single-parent children, says Stephen Atlas of Single Parenting magazine.

First, a reduction in tension, hostility, and discord within the family and an increase in family solidarity and consistency.

When tension is high between parents on their way to divorcing, children's emotional needs are often ignored.

Rules are not consistently enforced and children feel less secure.

When tension is gone, single parents can focus more on children's needs.

Single-parent families usually enjoy greater consistency in the enforcing of rules.

Second, greater flexibility in planning quality time with children.

Single parents aren't distracted by the expectations or time demands of another adult.

With fewer schedules to negotiate, there may be greater flexibility to spend time with each child.

Third, a democratic working-together approach to problem solving and daily living.

Single parents depend more heavily on the voluntary cooperation of their children.

Holding family councils in which children are involved directly in decision making and problem solving encourages this cooperation.

When children are thus involved, they are more likely to help carry out the decisions.

An opportunity for growth and sharing is the fourth benefit.

Single parents often need to develop new skills and obtain additional education.

While it isn't easy, pursuing the task of balancing a full-time job with full responsibilities for housework and parenting can help make us stronger people.

Fifth, the widening experience – two differing spheres of influence.

Children are now members of two single-parent families.

Each family will have its own unique influence.

This can be a broadening experience for children.

Sixth, the extended single-parent community.

Single-parent families are not necessarily isolated or cut off from the broader community nor do they necessarily lack support.

Groups for single parents, such as Parents Without Partners (PWP), can be a valuable resource for activities, sharing, personal growth, and forming new relationships.

And lastly, the opportunity for young people to mature, gain independence, and feel needed and valued as contributing members of the household.

In two-parent families, parents share the major responsibilities.

In single-parent families, each child's help is needed and vital in day-to-day living.

Thus, they may feel more valued.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work in agriculture and home economics.

Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, and other related acts, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) offers educational programs, materials, and equal opportunity employment to all people without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability.