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One of the biggest hurdles that nontraditional parents must jump over in society is the feeling of being “less than” traditional, two-parent families. Nontraditional families suffer under the weight of guilt and grief as a result of their particular family structure. They often feel isolated and alone, as if no one else could possibly understand the struggles they are going through. The reality is that most nontraditional parents feel that they do not met with societies standard of acceptable parenting and labor under the same feelings of guilt and grief. One way to help nontraditional parents adjust to their family structure is to look at their situation as the “same but different” and “different but the same” as other family types.
Same But Different
Nontraditional families do not have a clear job description or they try to use an inadequate model of the two-parent, traditional family when operating their blended or broken family. This model only frustrates them further. A new, more relevant plan is needed for nontraditional families. The motto: “same but different” can be used when creating this new job description.
Nontraditional parents may have the same values as traditional parents but the way in which they exercise them may be different. The need to have a strong executive or marital subsystem is the same but the makeup of that subsystem may be different. It may be made up of remarried individuals, grandparents instead of actual parents, nonbiological rather than biological parents, or a single parent instead of two parents. Birth order is the same in the nontraditional family as in a traditional one but is different or more complicated where a first-born child in a remarried family changes roles due to the inclusion of new siblings after the remarriage and becomes the middle or last-born child. This can lead to a difficult adjustment and the need to continue respecting the child’s old position along with their new position. Boundaries are the same as in the traditional family but where and when these are set will be different due to the different structure of the nontraditional family. The perfect parenting standard will be the same in the nontraditional parent but differs as nontraditional parents fall farther from the parenting ideal. And power plays will be the same in the nontraditional family as in the traditional family but detriangulation or diffusion take place differently from traditional families. Focusing on nontraditional parenting as the “same but different” helps normalize parenting for nontraditional parents while acknowledging their uniqueness.
Different But the Same
Likewise, focusing on being “different but the same” is also important for the nontraditional parent, to a point. They need to accept, if they are to move through the states and stages of grief, that they are very different in structure and composition from traditional families. Therefore, their experiences and feelings will be something traditional parents may not share. To believe that nontraditional parents are carbon copies of traditional parents and to attempt to live according to principles establish on their terms, will result in further failure in balancing love and limits.
Another way for nontraditional family to balance love and limits is to focus not of differences or sameness but on solutions. Finding what works, regardless of the traditional or nontraditional family parents find themselves in, will assist parents in achieving a greater balance of love and limits.
Love and limits represent two sides of the parenting coin. To have a balanced home, nontraditional families need to have both a “relational discipline” based on affection and communication and an “action discipline” style based on firm limits and structure. How a nontraditional family organizes these two principles of parenting will be similar and yet different from traditional, two-parent homes. By keeping in mind the concepts of “same but different” and “different but the same” nontraditional parents can better manage this balance of love and limits in their own unique fashion.
What are your thoughts on non traditional vs. traditional families? Share here or at http://www.facebook.com/parentingtoolbox
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Sometimes the problems we experience in our family relationships can feel so large that we simple stare transfixed at them. It can overwhelm us and cause us to give up hope. We may resign ourselves to the idea that we cannot over come them and this is the way our family will always be…
The unfortunately result of this immobilization is that we often believe the lie that other people (or ourselves) are the problem. I am fond of quoting a line from Narrative Therapy that goes: “The person is not the problem. The problem is the problem.”
It is only when we partner together, against the problem, externalizing it from our person that we are able to overcome that problem. Blaming one another as bad, damaged, or toxic only intensifies shame and keeps us stuck. I am not saying that people don’t make bad choices. We all say things and do things we wish we hadn’t done that can have destructive consequences on our families. The point here is that if we are to have the dream family we deserve to have, we have to work together against the problem.
Instead of staring at the problem, try “gazing” at your loved one and only “glancing” at the problem. It is still there but it is not where your attention needs to be glued to. Reconnect with your family, work together against the problem and start making changes, however small that will restore relationships and rebuild connections.
It is easy to focus on the negative behaviors and personality traits of your most intimate of relationships. While these people are the ones you most care about, they are also the ones who may have hurt you or disappointed you the most too.
As you re-structure your relationship start by listing 5 things you are thankful for with each person in your life. It will help you address their strengths and it will open you up to more possibilities for hope.
Consider “thankful” to be your new password to your new dreams for your family.
My wife and I were recently listening to some parenting workshops on audio and the speaker was talking about parenting one-liners used by the Love and Logic organization. I forgot how amazingly simple and powerful these one-liners are for parents who want to stay calm and regulated during potential power struggles with their children.
Some examples of one-liners include:
Instead of getting hooked into an argument or fixing a problem for child, use the parenting one-liners to facilitate more independent problem-solving skills by the child. Genuineness, on the part of the parent, is important when using them.
Get a free pdf here: http://www.loveandlogic.com/documents/one-liners.pdf
Do you have any other one-liners you use that disrupt power struggles? Share them here or on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1703QiT