• At parent-teacher conferences last night, I saw my friend Carl, who was a single-parent, after he and his wife divorced a little over three years ago. His ex had moved out of state, with her new husband, who was in the military, leaving Carl with full custody of his three children, all of whom were having problems in school. He had taken the divorce pretty hard, was bitter about his lot in life, and saw everything as negative. None the less, he tried to make the best of it for his children, but you could tell that he was struggling. “What my kids really need is a mother figure!,” he said as we waited for our turn with the teacher. Sitting across from us was an old friend Janice, who herself was a divorcee, who had overheard our conversation. She chimed in, “No, all they need is a good role model in their life.” As I stood up and took my cue to leave because it was my turn to meet with the teacher (plus the conversation was getting pretty tense). I know that Janice and Carl had some history as they dated for a short while soon after Carl’s divorce. It obviously didn’t work out and Carl got a bad reputation of being a player, after dating two other women in our circle of friends, that also didn’t work out. It didn’t hit me until later, but Janice was right.

    It’s true that traditionally people believed that in order for children to have a healthy development, both genders need to be present for child rearing. However, with the divorce rate at an all-time high, more and more children are being raised in single-parent or joint custody homes. And for some reason, when those children act out or misbehave, parents (and even some health professionals) sometimes attribute the problem to the absence of a spouse. Yes, raising children on your own is difficult but it isn’t a new phenomena. For years, the responsibility of child rearing has predominantly fallen on one spouse more than the other, for various reasons (work, military deployment, etc.). However, people somehow to make the best of it. Everyone handles stress and compensates for deficiencies differently. The absence of a parental figure, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily the cause of poor behavior.

    Research and history point to the fact that children from all walks of life can succeed. Whether you come from an intact, divorced, separated, widowed, or gay family, somehow children are able to do well and thrive. Each family dynamic is different and each person has their own individual struggles. I’ve seen children from broken homes who function well, and on the other hand, children from intact families that were all messed up. Yes, children do need a role model, but they will choose one on their own. What matters is that they have good role models to choose from, regardless of gender, age, or other factors. A good person is a good person under any circumstance. So, stop making excuses and blaming others for your deficiencies and start thinking about how you can provide a stable and supportive environment for your child by showing them that they are your priority!