To hear some public figures tell it, single parents are dooming their children to horrible fates. But single moms and dads are often hardworking, loving parents who may provide greater stability alone than they did in a failing relationship. A study at Ohio State University found that providing stability at home can be more important to children than the marital status of their parents. Though it doesn't meet the traditional ideal, there are some advantages to single parents raising children.
1. Cease Fire in the Home
Some single parents are widowed, but others become single through the breakdown of the relationship. The conflict leading up to a divorce or break-up affects children, too. They may become withdrawn, lash out or imagine that it is somehow their fault. Single parents reduce the amount of conflict their children have to see by ending the failing relationship. Children can then discuss their feelings with one parent at a time.
2. It Takes a Village
Single parents often have to rely on extended family and friends to help them meet child care needs on a hectic schedule. A greater connection with extended family can provide children with a broader range of potential role models, older confidants and a safe place to express their feelings. The extended support network may spot problems with the children that two people alone might miss, or offer advice from a wider range of experience.
3. Steady as She Alone Sails
A rocky relationship can devolve into arguments over parenting styles. Parents in conflict may upend plans made by the other, or misuse family resources in ways that make it difficult to establish a routine. Parents may have agreements enforced by the court, but within those guidelines, single parents are free to establish routines and traditions that help their children feel safe and loved. When both parents have stable routines, children can rotate between them confidently.
4. Smashing Gender Stereotypes
Married parents often wind up in stereotypical divisions of labor, with moms doing most of the cooking and dads doing most of the yard work. Single parents do it all, from playing catch to attending tea parties to explaining the facts of life. Children learn that women and men grow to meet the challenges life throws at them, and watch their parents learn new things and develop greater confidence.
- University of Rochester:Effects of Marital Conflict on Children: Recent Advances and Emerging Themes in Process-Oriented Research
- Psychology Today: The Upside of Divorce
- HealthyChildren.org: Single Parent Families
- OSU Research News: Family Stability May be More Crucial than Two Parents for Success
- The New York State Parent Education and Awareness Program: Single Parent Households: Are the Children Growing Up in Them Really Alright?
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