published Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Dads2Dads: Handling the changing face of the modern family

Tom Tozer and Bill Black

Families are changing, there's no doubt about it. According to a recent article in AARP: The Magazine, people are getting married later or not at all.

Only 19 percent of households consisted of a married couple and their children in 2013, and 41 percent of births registered in 2012 were to unmarried women.

In 1970, again according to the article, 40 percent of households were composed of married couples and their children; 72 percent of adults were married (versus 51 percent in 2012), and only 5 percent of births were to unmarried women.

So what happened? Some would say less tolerance for difficult unions, greater devotion to careers on the part of men and women and a higher degree of independence. Others would say a lack of respect for the institution of marriage, greater selfishness and more promiscuity.

Whatever the reason, the family is changing. Divorce rates are high while, at the same time, new forms of cohabitation, rare back in 1970, are on the rise. These family "units" include interracial marriages, same-sex partnerships and extended families living under one roof. Grandma is suddenly alone and cannot afford a place of her own. An adult son loses his job and must move back in with mom and dad. To save money, friends are pooling their resources and living together.

The important question in our minds is: How do parents maintain high-quality parenting practices in an evolving family structure? We think there are still important principles that hold true in raising children and trying to ensure their success. Even if children suddenly inherit additional displaced family members, mom and dad (or the adults in charge) can raise them in a proper and positive environment.

Here are some suggestions:

• Love the children under your roof. Your own and/or any others who need nurturing. Tell them so. Make it clear through a word, a smile, a hug.

• Listen. This doesn't happen when you're talking. It happens when you focus on how your children are acting and what they are saying.

• React slowly. Don't jump, throttle or argue incessantly. Respond calmly. Engage in a two-way conversation.

• Offer support. Let your kids know you are their cheerleader. Have confidence in them. Attend their events, Share time with them. Discuss issues with them. Show them you believe in them.

• Provide balance. You need to reel out the line of responsibility a bit at a time and reel it in when necessary. We all learn to be responsible over time, in stages. Give kids as much responsibility as they can comfortably handle and be prepared to pull back when necessary.

• Respect your children. Show them that you value their thoughts, opinion, virtues and talents.

• Use care. We've said it often -- your children may not look at you, but they never stop looking up to you. You are an important role model for your child. Be careful in how you act and how you treat your children. You teach more by example than by lip service.

Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the book "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc.com. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.

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