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The Dilemma of Divorce and Only Children

 

The prototypical nuclear family used to consist of 2 kids and 2 decimal points of a third child…

Post World War 2 and during the baby boom era, large families were encouraged and an accepted part of the American society. Our culture, from TV shows to advertising was built around the dynamic of the family. As the 1960’s and 70’s came and went, we saw this dynamic drastically change.

Women’s equality had a trickle-down effect that changed more than just work and marriage. The residual effect of a more progressive society has had a direct correlation on how we think of defining a modern family. Within the past 35 years, as of 2004, the amount of only-child families has almost doubled. The U.S. Census Bureau has not kept detailed information about the nature of how or why the number of only-child families has increased, whether by choice or circumstance. There are currently 20 million single-child families in the U.S. The percentage of American women having only one child has more than doubled in 20 years, to almost one quarter. The single-child family is the fastest-growing family in the U.S. As the divorce rates have risen as well in the single child family. what effects does this have on the child? And what can you do to help?

Easing the emotional stress

Any only child will feel grief stricken during the breakup of the family triangle. Along with this emotional schism will be the adaptation to a totally different routine. Only children have no peer or close sibling to lean on. As parents in this situation, there is no clear cut way to best handle the divorce process with only children.  There are ways to help emotionally ease only children that are entering into the sometimes harsh reality of a now fractured close knit family.

Prepare the child

It is often advised that parents break the news to children together rather than one parent doing it separately. This is especially true in the case of only children.  Explaining together that this decision was mutual and a tough one to make will help the child understand that even though separating, the family is all going through this together. Keeping the family in the same room talking about a major decision like this will emphasize that even though there will be a change in living situation, both parents are still equally and fully apart of the child’s life.

Building the predictable routine

Understandably an only child’s routine will go through a period of change and adjustment. The age of the child will dictate the varying degree of emotional adjustments and problems the child may go through. Attempting to add any instances of routine and predictability to these new situations will help ease the child into a new life style, while still keeping the same values as if the parents still lived under one house. Also maintaining certain habits in the only child’s routine will help with a sense of comfort-ability and familiarity.

Be prepared for questions

The individual age and maturity of an only child will dictate the level of questions, but make no mistake children; especially only children will have questions. Taking the time to fully explain and answer your child’s questions can help assuage the fears of the unknown that may be swirling around in the child’s head. There can also be the mistake of only child parents leaning on their children in times like these. Parents can sometimes treat the only children as more of an equal then they should transferring some of their own fears to a child who may not be mature enough to emotional handle a certain level of stress

Families with an only child can often be seem close knit, even if the parents in essence do not have a happy marriage. The potential effects of a divorce on an only child can be more detrimental in only children. The impact of divorces can be seen resonating throughout many different facets of an only child’s life and for years down the road. Being prepared as a parent with an only child can help soften the blow, remember these children do not have an equal counterpart in the family to lean on in situations where they might feel they cannot go to their parents. Older brothers and sisters sometimes substitute as pseudo parents especially for budding adolescents, but only children have only outward experiences and contacts to learn and lean on. Protecting the blow that divorce can cause will help only children remember that even though apart, their parents will always be there for them.

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