Topic 4: Single Parenting and Blended Families {by 10/3}

There are two readings due this week – Text Chapters 5 & 6.  Address the following three discussion points:  (1) Based upon your reading of Chapter 5, what is one of the biggest challenges of single-parent households?  (2) Based upon your reading of Chapter 6, what are a few important characteristics for a successful “integration” process of blended families?  (3)  What do you take away from both of these readings for clinical implications (e.g., conceptualization, treatment considerations, etc.).  Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 10/3.  Have your two replies no later than 10/5.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

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31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paige Hartmann
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 16:41:21

    1) Based upon Chapter 5, one of the biggest challenges that single-parent households encounter is the need of the parent to be two parents combined into one. The single parent juggles the responsibilities and obligations that normally two parents divide amongst each other. This requires more of the single parents’ time and energy to take care of their children, the household, their job, and a social life if they have any extra time in their schedule. This leaves the single-parent with little to no time of respite from their daily routine of chores and responsibilities. This becomes even more difficult for the single-parent to manage when they are living on a single income, which often times is barely enough to survive.
    2) According to Chapter 6, there are a few characteristics that contribute to the successful “integration” process of blended families. One of these characteristics involves individuals in stepfamilies having realistic expectations for their family. In other words, individuals in a successful stepfamily recognize that love and adjustment do not occur instantly, but they occur over time, as relationships take time to develop. A second characteristic of a successful integration involves the concept that losses can be mourned. Within a successful stepfamily, losses are acknowledged for all individual members of the stepfamily, including children who mourn the loss of their original family, as well as the partner who mourns the loss of what they envisioned their previous marriage to be like. A successful stepfamily involves the development of a strong couple relationship as well as the development of step relationships. Lastly, the establishment of routines and rituals and cooperation between the separate households contribute to the successful integration of stepfamilies.
    3) In terms of clinical implications, it is important for the therapist to remember that single-parent families are diverse and often are a result of loss. The therapist should also be aware that single-parent families are vulnerable, as they often struggle with financial hardship, difficulty managing daily responsibilities, low self-esteem, and difficulty providing consistency and authority. The therapist should always work from a strengths/resilience approach when working with single-parent families. Most importantly, the therapist should make sure to help the single-parent to recognize the their need for self-nurturance. When working with stepfamilies, the therapist should acknowledge the need to assess a stepfamily differently than they would a first-marriage family. It may be more beneficial to start with the couple relationship within therapy prior to working with the entire stepfamily together. Validation of feelings and understanding other individual stepfamily members’ views and perceptions has been shown to be a successful therapeutic strategy.

    Reply

    • Amanda Thomas
      Oct 02, 2013 @ 20:55:06

      Paige- I also identified the challenge of one parent assuming both parent roles. It is taxing on this parent, which in turn places stress on the children. Its no wonder single parents are run ragged; mentally, emotionally, physically that there is no time for social support to remove any of the onus from bearing the brunt of being two parents in one. It’s too bad we can’t look to society to help improve the well being of single parents, as their well being directly effects the well being of their children.

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    • Emily B
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 09:04:04

      Paige, I agree with your answer to the second question. I especially like the point you made about the fact that successful family intergration does not happen overnight. A family may believe that since they physically move that a child will instantly adjust to the move to a new home or new people coming into the home when that is not the case. There is much effort needed to assist children and parents to feel comfortable with new roles.

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    • Anthony Rofino
      Oct 05, 2013 @ 08:37:19

      Paige, I like that you adressed that one parent has to take on two roles. To add to your definition, there are certain things that are stereotypically taught by one parent not the other. This may be difficult for a single parent who is of a different gender than the child they are raising. For example, during puberty, a single-dad may find it uncomfortable or difficult to talk to his daughter about her first period. While he is aware of what a period is, he has almost no way to relate to the emotions that come with this life changing event, and he must do his best to be apathetic, understanding, and explain as best as he can to help his daughter.

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    • Brandon Pare
      Oct 06, 2013 @ 17:25:58

      Paige,
      I like your point how single parents need to play both roles that both parents would play. They do this not only with the responsibilities of the house but also with the emotional needs of the children as well, playing both the mother and the father. This can be hard not just on the child but also the parent having to potentially perform responsibilities that are typically required by the other parent.

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    • Katrina Mitchell
      Oct 06, 2013 @ 19:21:00

      Paige,
      It seems that the dilemma of a single-parent attempting to manage the responsibilities of two parents leads to similar stressors of a single-parent’s financial circumstances. Both dilemmas require much of the single-parent’s time an energy. Both dilemmas also affects how the parent works at their job/career, the expanse of their social life, and how the parent cares for their child or children. You touched upon this similarity at the end of your comment discerning that single-parent households are “even more difficult…to manage when they are living on a single income…”

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  2. Kristina Glaude
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 18:53:24

    1.) One of the biggest challenges of a single parent household is the financial stresses that arise. Due to this financial hardship that is occurring within the single parent household the single parent often struggles to finish all tasks that they want to complete as the money that comes into the home only can cover so many things. There is a constant worry in the back of the heads of the parents how am I going to make it this month. The single parent household does not allow for there to be the other partner to be available to lean on when unexpected items come up that need to be paid for, such as a new tire or a child’s field trip. There becomes a give and take as this balance of this challenge is managed monthly. Often times the needs of the parents are over looked in order to provide for the child. Within the support structure that a single parent may have could come supports such as daycare for a day at no charge or dinner over at someone’s home. However, this support although needed is not the same as a partner.
    2) I think there are a few important characteristics that the book notes that are helpful for working with blended families. First being the ability to validate the feelings of all members in the family and develop clear and specific roles. Within the new family that has been developed, power issues can occur. These power issues can be between the step parent and the biological parent in the new family or child vs parent or new family vs other biological parent. Although this struggle may be occurring the parents need to work on a basis for common ground to decrease the power struggle. The children within the family need to know that they can depend and have a sense of security from the adults. Another characteristic would be allowing the outsider into the already formed family unit. Sometimes this change within the family as this new member comes into the group has a period of un-comfortableness that occurs. If the members of the group are unwilling to change and develop, this is only going to increase difficulties in the newly formed family. The ability to adapt, change and grow will allow the family to continue some family traditions while creating new ones. A final characteristic is working through conflicting loyalties. These loyalties may be the biological parent that is no longer within the family or has passed away. Either way new relationships between the step parent and biological parents need to occur along with a relationship with the children. This relationship between the step parent and both the biological parents needs to be cohesive as possible in order to avoid increased difficulties within the family. As change occurs within the family the members of the family learn new roles that they take developing a changed family unit.
    3) When working with families that have these challenges I think that it is important to review each family independently. It is important to review that there is no “ideal” family. Although some families may appear to be “perfect” problems may be occurring behind the seen that others are unaware of. Each family is never the same but instead is unique and has specific strengths that make the family work as a unit. It is important when reviewing treatment to not only review things that the family would like to change but also things that are going well for the family. There may be things that need to be continued to be worked on within the family even after treatment has concluded. However, the family needs to remember what strengths and supports that they do have in order to continue progressing in the path and obtaining the result that they are happy with.

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    • Amanda Thomas
      Oct 02, 2013 @ 20:59:02

      Kristina- Although I didn’t comment on this, I did consider the notion of being an outsider in my response. It is especially difficult to join any group that has established connections, never mind an intimate connection like the bond between a parent and their children. The expectations for the outsider are so high that it can easily be a make it or break it factor in the relationship right of the bat. I think the outsider as well as the insiders need to be flexible in order to successfully move past this stage.

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    • Brandon Pare
      Oct 06, 2013 @ 19:02:02

      Kristina,
      I agree with you that family continuity is important when blending two homes. The most important feature is how each individual feels about the two families coming together and what stage the new family as a whole is. It is important to keep in mind how everyone feels because their mood will directly impact the family as a whole.

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    • Katrina Mitchell
      Oct 06, 2013 @ 19:30:39

      Kristina,
      You mention an important characteristic for the successful integration of blended families is the ability to validate the feelings of all family members, especially in regard to power issues. This is major characteristic for clinical implications as we as clinicians stress the significance of validating our clients’ feelings whether they are considered “right” or “wrong”. Therefore, in order for family members to accept new members they need to fully experience their feelings which includes validation of these feelings no matter what they are. As a result, clients can move past these feelings in order to adapt to and accept the feelings of others as well as other themselves. I’m glad you highlighted this point since it reflects the characteristics of clinical work so well.

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  3. Amanda Thomas
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 20:51:14

    It seems that the biggest problem single parent households face is poverty. Poverty has a circular influence that negatively impacts custodial parents and their ability to provide for their children and for themselves. Poverty affects the mental health or well being of the parents (specifically the custodial parent) and children. Poverty also is directly related to the manner in which parents interact or fail to interact with their children. Often single custodial parents are distressed and fail to provide adequate nurturance to their children. These children then tend to have more social, emotional, and behavioral problems as well as have lower academic achievements. Impoverished families are more susceptible to more frequent stressful life events thus increasing the risk for psychological distress / depression.

    Aside from poverty, another challenge single parent households face is assuming the role of both parents. This is challenging for both the children and the custodial parent. Children have to readjust to a restructured family unit while the parent has to provide nurturance, discipline while providing financial and socioeconomic support. If both parents can function effectively this can be attained however it seems that often times one parent is viewed as the “fun time” while the other is the “bad guy”.

    Some of the important characteristics for a successful integration of a blended family include acceptance, tolerance, understanding, and familiarity. When children can and are encouraged to enjoy these experiences between their new living arrangements the integration process is more functional for the children as well as the adults that are involved. More specifically, that the adults set the tone for the integration process and allow it to be realistic for their circumstances. Setting appropriate expectations for the blended family will assist in developing a more functional and satisfactory family unit for adults and children.

    In regard to clinical implications I think it is important to listen to the target patient and hear their concerns and empathize with them. It is important to set your own views aside and help the client with what they are asking for while treading a fine line to also educate them on how to provide a stable and predictable transition for their child(ren). I also really liked the emphasis that was placed on not rushing the relationship between stepparents and children. Relationships take time to form, so encouraging children and stepparents to relish in that process is crucial.

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    • Emily B
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 08:58:59

      Amanda, poverty does have a huge effects on families and results and clients being more vulnerable to several different risk factors. I think finding programs that will help a parent find the services that they can utilize to assist them in helping to support their family.

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  4. Emily B
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 08:47:43

    Based on the Chapter 5 reading I think that depending on the needs of the family several things can be considered the biggest challenge of a single-parent household. Financial stress can make it difficult for single parent to provide for their children and may cause them to work harder and result in having to spend less time with their children to meet their basic needs. Many families do not start as single-parent household. Some families’ break up due to separation, divorce, or death dealing with these issues causes major stress even without children involved. Another issue that might be challenging to a parent is lack of support. Single parenting asks the parent to play both roles while continuing to provide for their family. Some parents, especially teen parents are able to use their parents and extended family for emotional and financial support. Also, single father tend to isolate themselves from supports that could assist them in feeling less stressed. Overall it is important to ask the client what is the most stressful part of raising a child as a single parent.
    There are several important characteristics to help integrate blended families. Discussing with family members about the roles that each member plays. Since there could be some overlap in what each member of the family is suppose to do children who are already transitioning to a new way of life may lash out against new family members to maintain their roles. On that note it is important to allow family members to mourn the loss of their old family. Not only children are mourning the loss of this old family life but parents are also mourning this loss. Also, it is important to remember that these changes will not happen overnight and the transition into a new home is something to be adjusted to.
    What I learned from these chapters is that not every family is what we think is the stereotypical “single-parent” home. Allowing the client, whether it is the parent or child, to explore what their definition of a single parent home is and what their individual struggle is. Making a conceptualization based only on what is most common is ineffective in assisting clients in developing skills to cope with transitions. Also, it is important to explore roles that members of the family along with their strengths and challenges.

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    • Sara Grzejszczak
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 17:36:34

      Emily, I agree with you that there seems to be a continuing circle for single parent families where they need to work more so then they do not spend time with their children so then they try to spend time but they then cannot afford to do fun things with their children because they do not have the money. I feel like this is when family support can really play a large role because they can offer financial support as well as emotional support to the children and the parent. I also think it is important to not let the stereotype get in the way of making a conceptualization of the family because most of the time the family will not fit into that stereotype and have their own unique set of problems.

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    • Angela Vizzo
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 18:39:31

      Emily, you make some really interesting and important points. You mentioned how some single mother, particularly teen mothers, can receive help from their families of origin and move back in with them. This can be a double-edged sword, where the grandparents provide much needed support for their child and grandchildren, but can also cause the mother to loose her autonomy and can create conflict between parents and grandparents disagreeing on how the children should be raised.

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  5. Brandon Pare
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 14:02:31

    1) One of the biggest challenges that a single parent home faces is financial hardships. Poverty is very common. Even if the single parent is just getting by financially they know in the back of their minds that they are living on the edge and that it would only take an unforeseen event to push them over the edge. This can create a lot of stress. Especially if the parent is truly doing everything plus expenses to keep the house a float. This can cause a lot of psychological distress for the single parent. Putting them at more risk for mental health and physical health issues. The single parent household not only affects the parent but the children as well. Children in a single parent household are more likely to be at risk of having low self-esteem, acting out, academic issues, and difficulty socializing with peers.
    2) The stages of successful family integration are broken up into three stages. The beginning stages proceed in this order Fantasy, Immersion, and Awareness. These stages involve a splitting of the household on biological lines. Direct family members form closed circle relationships with the their family members. Gradually the adults in the family come to see this development. The middle stages include Mobilization and Action. These are the stages where tension can become really high the household and the possibility of divorce can loom over stepparents. It can take up to five years for the parents and the household to be able to work as a team. The last stages contain Contact and Resolution. These are the stages highlighting that the new combined family is acting more as a team. That they have developed better functional relationships. Each of these stages is important to keep inconsideration when working with step families.
    3) The clinical implications of these readings shows me that there is truly a level of mindfulness that needs to come into play not just for the family as to where they are with their level of stress and continuity, but also as a therapist for conceptualizing what stage the family is at. What these readings also do is highlight how the individual can feel in the single parent and step parent environment and how these feelings can influence how the environment functions as a whole. These readings provide information that should be relayed to single parents and step parents so that they can understand that it is a process combining two families and expectations need to become adjusted if need be. Parents and step parents need to be able to realize the toll that this process has on themselves and the children present and that expectations should be adjusted accordingly.

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    • Paige Hartmann
      Oct 04, 2013 @ 10:30:01

      Brandon, I like how you mentioned that when working with single-parent and step-families that the therapist should be mindful of what stage the family is currently at. This is very important as both single-parent families and step-families are diverse. It is important as a therapist to communicate to the families that integration of families is a process which requires time and effort among all members.

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    • Kristina Glaude
      Oct 04, 2013 @ 22:43:51

      Brandon-
      I like that you note that it can take up to 5 years for the family to work as a team. I think it is important to remember that although the family is now blended together it does not mean that everything is going to work or get along perfectly. I think that it is important to remember that this adjustment takes time to occur. It is something that is going to have to be worked towards. As we work with families every family is at a different stage within this process and that is important to remember.

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  6. Anthony Rofino
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 14:10:40

    1) As the chapter itself says, “Poverty is perhaps the most overwhelming influence on single parents and their children and is crucial in interpreting studies of the needs and problems of single-parent households.” (P.125). While poverty can affect two parent families as well, it is more likely to occur in single-parent households, as there is only one parent to work. Poverty can also increase parental stress, which leads to depression and negative effects on child rearing. The key to avoiding these issues is to utilize the supports around the family, be they natural supports, such as families, or organizations/government funding that can help. While some may find this embarrassing, demoralizing, or another negative stigma, there is no shame in asking for help, and this must be realized by the client for them to raise their child in the best environment.
    2) One important factor for a successful “blended” family, is that expectations are realistic. The family must all understand that love and adjustment do not just happen overnight. Instead, it is a gradual process that takes time, not only for the children, but the parents as well. So often, it is seen that it is the children that have the largest problem adjusting to stepparents. However, it is ignorant to ignore that sometimes, stepparents must adjust to having stepchildren. It is also important that there is a strong couple relationship, as this can show the children that, if their birth parent can love this person so much and their stepparent really treats their birth parent well, it will be easy to love them to. Finally, it is important that stepparents are sensative to the loss of a parent in their stepchild’s life (be it by divorce or death). One can not expect the child to be over this so quickly, and talking to them about it may alleviate the process.
    3) As stated in part 1, I think it is very important in a clinical setting to make any single-parent family (or any family really) struggling with poverty more aware of the services around them that can help them with their needs. Help them list out their natural family supports and what they would be comfortable asking their family for. The other supports can be built from services that you as a clinician suggest. Also, gleaning from chapter 6, it is important to make it clear to stepparents having frustrations with a lack of bonding, that it is natural that a child does not instantly gravitate towards love, and to give them the time they need to build a relationship

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    • Sara Grzejszczak
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 17:48:23

      Anthony, I like how you pointed out that people could be embarrassed in asking for help to support their family from either their own families of origin or the government. Many times it seems like there is no gray though and people who want to work to support their family cannot get government aid if they work a lot of hours and on the flip side if they do not work the government does not give them enough money to really help them out. I feel like this is where family is really important because they can help out financially and even emotionally. I like how you said that therapists should help their clients make a list of their family supports that they would be comfortable asking for help. By doing this they know that they could potentially get emotional support from these members as well as financial support and other types of support.

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  7. Katrina Mitchell
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 14:12:58

    While single-parent households face several dilemmas including independently managing their child or children, own household, job(s) or career, friends and family, and respite care that are all typically managed through the roles of two parents, it seems one of the biggest challenges they face are finances. A single-parent’s income is at least half as less as families with two-parents’ incomes. This statistic is even more relevant to single-mothers as data has shown that men generally earn approximately 19% more per year than women according to the US Census Bureau in 2009. As a result, single-mothers among single-parents struggle significantly to “make ends meet” from month to month. This stress becomes most apparent when single-parents face unexpected expenditures such as car problems, school trips, eating out, holidays, or extra curricular activities to name a few. Therefore, not only do single-parents face challenges regarding finances but, due to such high stress these challenges create, single-parents are also at risk for mental health disorders such as anxiety and/or depression. Mental health concerns inadvertently impact their care of their child or children placing their children at risk for mental health concerns. Walsh (2003) found that financial strain is associated with higher levels of mental health symptoms in parents, which directly and negatively influence the quality of their child rearing. In other words, both single-parents as well as children who live in single-parent households are at risk for developing mental health disorders due to financial challenges. For instance, the mother of one of my clients is a single-parent of three children. She works as a nurse during third shift in order to make salary, be available for her children during the day, and avoid sending her children to day care as well as avoid the cost day care requires. In addition, she lives within the same neighborhood of her parents for added support and care. Then, on her vacation time she plans full trips away from home that include her children so she can give herself somewhat of a “break”. At the same time, she and her two oldest children receive counseling for various issues within their household.

    Several characteristics were identified for a successful “integration” process of blended families in Chapter 6 such as developing roles, having realistic expectations, accepting new family members, mourning loss, developing a strong co-parenting relationship, and establishing cooperative routines. Of these, it seems the most important characteristics are having realistic expectations and developing strong co-parenting relationships. Realistic expectations of blended families consider the adjustment period it takes for new relationships to develop and for a new family unit to form. Walsh (2003) asserts that successful remarried families do not attempt to force their family into a first-marriage family mold but instead recognize that instant love or adjustment is an unrealistic expectation because relationships take time to grow and cannot be forced. Though learning to not only accept but live with new people may be uncomfortable, with realistic expectations including an appropriate amount of time and support, new members learn to adapt to and relate to each other leading to better functioning of all individuals involved in the new family unit. Developing strong co-parenting relationships also takes considerable time and effort. Children often mourn over the loss of a second parent as well as the loss of their previous family unit. Parents, too, may mourn over the loss of similar dyads. To develop a new family unit it is important for the newly joined “parenting couple” to support their children undergoing this integration while also supporting each other. Strong parenting couples create a common ground among all members involved in integrating families. This is especially significant in regard to making decisions and establishing discipline. Custodial parents, step parents, and non-custodial parents should agree on and create a common ground among all of their children to decrease adversity, conflict, and resentment while increasing integration. This allows children to depend on each parent equally, supporting biological parents’ relationships with their children and developing non-biological parent’s relationships with their partners’ children. Developing strong co-parenting relationships, again, supports the learning and adaptation of new members to each other leading to better functioning of all individuals involved in the new family unit.

    Both of these readings have made several inadvertent suggestions for my clinical work with children and families faced with the challenges of single-parent households and/or integrating into blended families. As previously mentioned, one of my clients lives within a single-parent household where her mother works the third shift to provide and support her family financially and physically. Therefore, during sessions it is important for me to conceptualize that her mother is the sole provider for all three of her children including my client. Therefore, if my client sneaks out of the house or is disrespectful to her mother it is solely her mother worrying about her daughter, searching for her daughter when she should be preparing for work, or facing her daughter’s maladaptive bursts of emotion before or after the third shift. She cannot ask a partner to search for her daughter so she can sleep or switch with her every other time her daughter becomes maladaptively emotional. As a result, my client’s mother often times reports feeling overwhelmed and discouraged when her daughter doesn’t meet her goals and expectations. Therefore, while considering treatment me, my client, and my client’s mother brainstorm plans that will work for them as a family unit. This includes incentives and consequences that take place within the house and incentives that are less than two dollars. If I do not conceptualize my client’s life and use this conceptualization for my client’s treatment plan, I would already be failing as a clinician for creating a plan that just isn’t feasible for this single-parent household. Integrating families to become blended also seems to be a difficult and stressful process that must also be conceptualized in the treatment of clients. While I currently don’t have clients undergoing integration, I am working with young sisters whose recently divorced father began seeing other women before his marriage had fully ended. As a result, the sisters have difficulty depending on their father and rather resent him for choosing other women over their mother. Though the concept of another family has not yet been introduced to them, their mother and father already do not have a strong co-parenting relationship that all of the sisters can depend on if and when new people become new members of their family. As a clinician, it is important for me to recognize this early on and support their mother who brings them to see me in establishing a co-relationship with her now ex-husband for the benefit of her children both now as well as later on.

    Reply

    • Paige Hartmann
      Oct 04, 2013 @ 10:35:48

      Katrina, I liked your clinical example of the single-parent family with three children you are working with. You identified the struggles that the mother must face while working third shift in order to provide for her children. Being a single-parent is by no means easy, especially when there are no periods of respite.

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  8. Stacie Z.
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 15:43:56

    One of the biggest challenges facing single parents, especially mothers who make up a significant percentage of single parents, is that tasks, responsibilities, decisions, etc. that used to be shared must now be managed by an individual. Even in families where the woman was a stay-at-home mother and carried the majority of household and childcare responsibilities, the likelihood of being able to take an hour or two per week to do something for herself was greater. The chapter brings up the point that it is a challenge to help most single mothers see why it is just as important to maintain her needs as it is to meet the needs of her children. A parent who is completely overwhelmed in terms of time, attention, finances, may view suggestions that she take some time to take care of her own needs as just another thing to add to her list of obligations. However, “Maternal well-being increases the ability to raise children successfully in single-parent households.” (p. 132). I think this reinforces the importance of reminding mothers, single or not, to reflect on what they can (realistically) plan to do to take care of themselves and help them to schedule that time in. In some cases, especially those women who are not accustomed to speaking up about their needs, therapists may also have to work with women in building their self-esteem and helping them to understand their own identity, before they are prepared to implement these plans.

    Similar to other discussions regarding family systems, successful “integration” of biological families and stepfamilies is not a topic that offers an objective sequence of events or behaviors that increase its likelihood. However, there are general themes that have demonstrated positive effects in families more or less “successful” blending first-marriage and remarriage families. I really liked the statement on page 163 that highlighted the idea “it is not as though the family must achieve the “ideal” to be successful.” Some of the essential characteristics of those remarriage families, that I also think make intuitive sense, include realistic expectations, the awareness that developmental stage and age of children strongly influence how easily a step-parent is accepted or welcomed, that it is okay to acknowledge the loss associated with divorce, and that rushing or pressuring any member of the stepfamily to feel or behave a certain way towards other members of the stepfamily before he or she is ready, is often counterproductive.

    I think in these situations as well as with clients in general, we need to be aware of what our biases or stereotypes are regarding the population we are working with. For example, this becomes even more important if we think that we are void of biases regarding what difficulties a single mother is facing, why a father is estranged, or how stepfamilies can successfully integrate, because each client is bringing his or her own set of unique circumstances. Therefore, even if we have repeatedly witnessed a certain intervention or approach working with multiple families or see histories/stories with recurring themes, we can never assume that it will work for all families of similar characteristics or patterns. I also found the idea presented by the authors that there are fundamental differences between first-marriage family relationships and structures, and families formed by remarriage to be really interesting. In reading about those differences I realized that although on the surface it is easy to think “of course there are differences”, the authors’ detailed reasoning and explanation made me realize that this issue has many levels and that by being acutely aware of these differences clinicians can avoid trying to mold the stepfamily unit into a first-marriage mold.

    Reply

    • Angela Vizzo
      Oct 03, 2013 @ 18:34:14

      Stacie, I really like your discussion of step-families, you discussed a lot of important points. For example, you mentioned the step-parent needing to take into account the age of the child and set realistic expectations accordingly. This is key, and can be hard for a step-parent coming in who has never had children or has not experienced children or adolescents at a particular age that their new step-child is, or even not experiencing having a child of the gender that their new step-child is.

      Reply

  9. Melissa Recore
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 16:29:27

    (1) Based upon Chapter 5, the biggest challenges of single-parent households is financial hardship and lack of support. The single parent is responsible for providing a sustainable income for the entire family in addition to all the other stressors of raising a family. The single parent has to act in the role of both parents. The stress of not having the support of another partner in day to day activities is very hard. Having to make time for homework, cooking, cleaning, working, and QUALITY TIME is difficult. In addition the parent needs to be aware of how they express themselves within the family. Are they crying everyday that they don’t have enough money, are they laughing when the electricity gets shut off are they finding time for bedtime stories, basically, are they supervising, modeling and supporting their children so their children feel secure in their own home.
    (2) The biggest characteristic for successful integration of a blended family is realistic expectations. Blended families need to set realistic expectations on the resistance to blend by some members of the family, the fact that some individuals will grief the loss of their previous family dynamics, and the fact that this new blended family will never function like the Brady Bunch. Realistic expectations allows for the family to discuss, collaborate, and grow together as they “figure out” how to make the new family work. This whole process is much more successful if the parents are an untied front and engage the rest of the family in a consistent and joined way.
    (3) I think the most important thing for clinicians to do is to go into every initial interview without their original or tradition expectations on what the family will be or how they will function. Clinicians have to respect all the different family dynamics within each family and be prepared to support and help improve the family to strengthen it. No family is the same and they all come with unique strengths and weaknesses. Time should always be spent understanding how the family functions, their values, goals, foundational operations etc. to ensure that the clinician’s suggestions are not generic recommendations but that they will actually help the particular family you’re working with.

    Reply

    • Kristina Glaude
      Oct 04, 2013 @ 22:32:21

      Melissa-
      I like how you note that blended families need to have realistic expectations. I think that it is unrealistic to believe that people are going to move in together and create a blended family without having bumps in the road. I think that it takes time to get to know each other as a family and be able to know the strengths and weakness of each person in order to build a new family. There is going to be growing pains while the family develops as a unit.

      Reply

  10. Sara Grzejszczak
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 17:10:47

    The biggest challenge of single-parent households is that the parent has to do the work of two individuals and not just one. Single-parents are more likely to be depressed, have more economical problems, less emotional support, work longer hours, have more stressful life changes, and are even more physically vulnerable in comparison to married couples. These challenges would be the most difficult because the single parent does not have time to do what they need to do to help themselves deal with the loss of a relationship that they once had, as well as how they will be able to make ends meet so that way they can now provide for themselves and their children. It is easy to see how a single parent could lose him/her self and have to enter therapy, even if it was just to set up a plan with how to manage children’s’ behaviors. In the beginning children will be slow to adjust to this new family situation and may act out, single parents who are already stressed will not know how to effectively deal with the problem behaviors and would definitely benefit from seeing a therapist to deal with the challenge of the children as well as talk about everything else the that single parent has to do.
    Some important characteristics for a successful “integration” process of blended families are that the expectations of the new blended family need to be realistic, the couple has a strong relationship, and that there are satisfactory step relationships that form. Each of these characteristics is important for the new family to integrate. New families need to have expectations that are realistic and know that the children that are now a part of this new family relationship will need time to mourn the loss of their family that was split up as well as learn how to manage with their new stepparent and siblings. If the new blended family members think that everything will be perfect from the start they will be greatly let down when small problems arise that will have to be worked out. A strong couple relationship is important to the success of the new family because each person in the relationship already has a loyalty to their child from their previous marriage and so they need to learn how to split their time to satisfy both their new partner as well as their child. Couples that are a part of a new blended family are also still getting know each other and so boundaries need to be set about how raising their new family will be. Last but certainly not least is the fact that children and stepparents need to form a satisfactory relationship. I think a good example of this is in the movie ‘Stepmom,’ through out the movie you know that Isabel is trying to figure out how to be a parent to Ana and Ben but she is not sure how to so she forces the relationship at first instead of just going slowly. Once the children find out that their mother is dying and each of the members of the family, the new blended family included, finds out how to not only cope with those feelings but have a new respect for each other and know that they are doing their best. At the end of the movie you can see the new relationships of Isabel and her stepchildren solidify and they learn to trust and respect each other.
    From both of these chapters I feel like therapists need to really take a step back and listen closely to what the particular needs are for the particular family that they are working with. Each single parent family is different in the way that they feel about the separation, how they are doing financially, what they are stressed over, how their children are doing with the separation, etc. It is east to get caught up with the dad, mom, 2.5 kids model and that any other variation of it is not going to be beneficial for the family members that are involved. Some single parent families may just need someone to help them come up with behavior plans to manage their children’s behaviors or they may just need to have their feelings validated. No matter what these new families are different from the first marriage family that they used to be and will have very different needs that therapists need to be aware of.

    Reply

    • Stacie
      Oct 05, 2013 @ 10:01:59

      Sara- I agree with how important it is for therapists to determine exactly what the family needs are. Often we are presented with situations where there are problem behaviors impacting the overall family functioning and that can guide our approach. However, it is important to also recognize how other clients may simply need to feel heard and understood. It can be reassuring to hear that some of the difficult or negative feelings and events being experienced when integrating blended families are to be expected. Especially if this is the first remarriage for both partners, they do not have the prior experience to judge how things are going and may have mulitiple misconceptions of what to expect. By becoming aware that there is no step-by-step guide to get to a point where members of the blended family accept, care, and respect one another, clients can become more confident that they will get to this point in time and that the small steps that are being made are still steps in the right direction.

      Reply

  11. Angela Vizzo
    Oct 03, 2013 @ 18:28:46

    There are many challenges that face single-parent households, however, in my opinion, one of the biggest challenges is the single-parent having to manage a household, raise the kids, work, and take care of themselves at the same time. This is essentially cramming a 2-person job into the role of one person, especially when the parent has primary physical custody. As mentioned in the chapter, having to fulfill all of these obligations does not give a single-parent any downtime where they are not at least worrying about the kids or the household. Because of this it can be easy for the parent to loose their sense of self, and become overwhelmed by their varied roles.

    Many characteristics and circumstances effect the integration of blended families, some things that can be done to ease this process are letting the children enjoy their varied experiences in both households, confronting unrealistic expectations and allowing all members of the family to deal with the transformation of the family, developing good step-relationships, and holding off having another (joint) child until the step-family is well integrated.

    There are many clinical implications that can be taken from these two chapters. In dealing with single-parent households it is important to engage the entire family and see that all members of the family have their needs met. This includes the parents as well as the children, because some single-parents neglect their own needs which can adversely effect the family. It can also be important to help the family come to terms with the loss, as all single-parent families experience some loss, may it be a lost member or a lost dream. When dealing with step-families the therapist needs to take on the role as a moderator, helping both sides be heard and helping the family come to a mutually agreeable compromise.

    Reply

    • Stacie z.
      Oct 04, 2013 @ 20:21:29

      Angela- I like that you pointed out the benefit that comes from children being able to enjoy both households. A theme that I have noticed in the book is the idea that although much emphasis is placed on risks and negative outcomes to be aware of, it is equally important to be aware that these same situations, when handled well, provide unique advantages. For example, while married, a father may have agreed with his wife to celebrate holidays in a certain manner, eliminating aspects of traditions he grew up with that he had hoped to carry on with his own children. Now that the father and mother reside in two households, remarried or not, these traditions can be modified and recreated, therefore exposing the child to the diversity of ways one can celebrate these occasions and traditions.

      Reply

    • Anthony Rofino
      Oct 05, 2013 @ 08:42:26

      Angela, I like that you addressed, from a clinical standpoint, that the whole family must be looked at in a single-parent household, as too often the parent doesn’t focus on themselves, instead focusing only on their child. I know from a personal example, my mother put my life way above hers while iI was growing up. While I developed pretty normally and well due to this, my mom’s personal life suffered greatly. She had very few friends and rarely went out, instead thrusting her spare time into work. It took her years after I moved out of the house to finally devote some of her time to her personal life. I think, with a good therapist, she could have enjoyed her life a bit more while I was growing up instead of waiting so long.

      Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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