Shoring up against potential (family) erosion…

Hens I was talking to my friend Bernadette yesterday from Slow Family Living about putting together a panel for next year's SXSW — and was surprised at her surprise by a part of our conversation. Context: she has four kids under the age of 11. My two girls are 14 and 18, with one already out of the house.

The thing that shocked her?

Happy_kidsI casually mentioned that I remember how when the girls were in elementary school, we were surrounded by all these other married parents (when I myself was still married), but as they went to middle school, there were more kids from divorced families. And in high school, even more. It got to the point that not a SINGLE friend of either child came from a nuclear family. Not one.

Bernadette's response was, "Oh my god! That's unbelievable!"

And yet, that's reality.

Torn_net So we're dealing with some real threats to the American family, folks. The longer a family stays together, the older the kids get, the less likely they are to be married. That's shocking and insane and a real shame.

I find that really sad… and also kind of overwhelming. Don't you?

Most of us are reading this site because there's already been a break-up – that's why they are two women in the picture.(And neither asked for the other to be there, but yay, there they are….)

Giraffes As a culture, we desperately need to get better at learning how to stay married, whether it's the first time around, the second, or maybe even the third! And get help when we need it.

And we need to mitigate the risks to the second marriage as much as possible, by understanding the dangers and challenges for that union, whether in the form of common stepmom issues (read Wednesday Martin's book, Stepmonster for a brilliant assessment of some of the unique challenges) or problems between the mom and stepmom. We must also more carefully consider the role of the father, and what's it's like walking the tightrope between 3-way divided loyalties.

Looking_together We need help to slow down and reconnect with each other in our families, whether we're a nuclear family, stepfamily, or some other combination thereof.

Sometimes it really helps if you have someone to say, "Oh, right…. This what you're up against — here's the big picture. Sure, you're about to drive off into dark skies and churning clouds, but here, — here's what to expect. And also… here are some possible tools to use when you run into problems."

Doesn't it feel so much better to be learning together? :-)

Two quick notes:

  1. We're still gathering email addresses for raffle prizes and again, if you enter your name, you have a very good chance of winning. VERY good!
  2. Our next free meeting will be at BookPeople on Tuesday, June 16th at 7:30, so mark your calendars!

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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Comments

  1. You are so right about the growing single-parent families as the kids graduate from elementary to middle school, and then to high school. I saw this, too, with my kids.

  2. Interesting conversation!
    I remember when my girls were in middle school and elementary (they are 3 years apart in age, but 4 in school), my oldest came home and told me that we weren’t a “normal” family because her father and I were married. Divorce rates in miltary families are slightly higher…
    By the time my girls were 16 & 19, their dad and I ended our marriage…his cheating didn’t help…but in my kids’ eyes we finally became “normal.”

  3. Good post. It’s the reason your book is so very relevant. I don’t necessarily find it sad that the nuclear family is becoming an outdated idea. Sometimes divorce can be a reflection of our willingness to care for each other and to tell the truth.
    What I think we need is to stop perpetuating the myth that the nuclear family is better. We can have healthy blended and step families. It’s about creating connection and love in whatever kind of family we belong to. If we committ to creating an environment of love for our kids, then the configuration of the family is secondary.

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