Thursday, July 31, 2003

Although the number of single-parent families has increased in recent years, many inaccurate beliefs persist. This posting is meant to dispel some of the myths and help you cope with some of the realities.

Some of the myths include:

MYTH: Children who grow-up in a single-parent household are more likely to struggle in school, get into trouble with the law and develop serious social problems.
FACT: Single parents have raised many well-rounded, successful people. Many negative predictions for children raised by a single parent have more to do with economic hardship than the lack of one parent. With hard work, love, positive discipline and good parenting skills, single parents can raise capable, content, successful children.

MYTH: Children from single parent homes will never have healthy relationships themselves.
FACT: Children of divorced parents seem to put more energy into maintaining their relationships. A recent study of more than 6,000 adults found that 43 percent of adult children of divorced parents are happily married—about the same percentage as those who grew up in two-parent homes.

MYTH: Children of single parents need role models. The sooner the parent remarries the better.
FACT: Children benefit from the presence of both men and women in their family life provided those men and women are emotionally healthy. Children actually suffer more harms by living with conflict and unhealthy role models than by having one healthy, effective parent. A single parent with good parenting skills can raise children successfully without a partner by building a good support system—a circle of friends, relatives and neighbors.

MYTH: Children of single parents have lower self-esteem.
FACT: Children of single parents are no more likely to suffer from low self-esteem than their peers from a two-parent home. Studies indicate that income level can be a deciding factor relating to a child's self-esteem. Parents need to emphasize to their children that who they are is not based on what they have. A strong sense of self-esteem helps children resist negative peer pressure and gives them the confidence to face challenges and try new things.

MYTH: Single-parent homes are "broken" homes.
FACT: Most parents who divorce or decide not to marry do so because they want to create a stable home for their family. If there is a great deal of conflict in a marriage or relationship, a change to a single-parent family can result in a reduction in tension, hostility and discord and an increase in family solidarity and consistency. It is the children of parents who remain together despite constant conflict who often encounter problems. When anxiety is high between parents, children's emotional needs are often ignored, rules are not consistently enforced and children feel less secure. When the tension is alleviated, however, single parents can focus on their children's needs. Effective parenting skills and healthy relationships are what make a family whole.