Involvement with Nontraditional Parents and Families of Children with ExceptionalitiesEvery family is governed by different rules, values, and norms designed to protect and continue the family unit. Rules and norms come from family history, personalities, expectations, and values. Children entering a family impact both the family and child. The child must determine how to fit into this environment and the parents must make time, financial, and priority changes.

The traditional family stages (marriage, birth of a first child, leaving home by the last child) are happening less often. Families are in transition - divorce, blended families, single parent, unmarried parents, foster parent, grandparents, and same-gender parents now may be raising the child.

Three types of involvement are looked at in this chapter: Separation and Divorce, Blended Families, and Other Nontraditional Families with their impact on the child and the parents.

Separation and DivorceThe impact on children is often sadness, denial, and fear. The parental relationships have changed. Anger may show toward one or both parents. Male children are more apt to become aggressive, impulsive, and antisocial.

The impact on parents stems from the fact that most mothers become the child’s custodial parent. Financial problems surface (mothers make half the income of fathers, many families exist below the poverty level because marketable work skills are missing or outdated. Discipline problems routinely occur in single parent families. Personal problems for single parents in the areas of employment discrimination, increased responsibilities, isolation, and loss of status are often reported.

Blended FamiliesIssues for children are: loyalties to noncustodial parent and other relatives, authority structure, role development and enforcement.

Entering parents may be "perfect parents" and have all the answers. They cannot understand why they do not receive instant love and admiration. Negative feelings really increase when both spouses been children to the new marriage. The lines of authority must be resolved. Financial expectations and understandings must be accepted. Loyalty cannot be demanded by the new parent. The issue is to keep communications lines open as order is established in the new family.

Other Nontraditional Families

Identification of the many possible "other" families is beyond the scope of the book. Guidelines foe dealing with these families may not be available. The best advice is to recognize that each family is unique and to individualize your method of addressing their issues and needs.