Monday, February 20, 2012

Overcoming parental insecurities involved in raising a child in a non-traditional home during early childhood by James Parker

Raising a child in a non-traditional household can be difficult on the parent that the child may spend less time with. In most situations this is an arrangement that consist of a child residing with one custodial parent for a majority of the time, and staying with the other parent only during scheduled times. The most common schedule being bi-monthly, (in this context 2 times a month) and for longer periods of times such as summer visitation that could consist of weeks to months. These arrangements are seen in most custody agreements in the United States when the parents remain involved with the child’s upbringing, but no longer live in the same household.
For the parent that spends less time with the child, feelings of doubt may frequent their mind and worries that their child may not become as close to them or love them as much. It is very important to adhere to certain guidelines and consistencies in order for the child to grow to learn the routine and establish a sense of security with the non-custodial parent. The end result would be a strong and loving relationship between parent and child.
It is important to know that one of the first and basic needs a child seeks to obtain is a strong sense and safety and security. A parent must assure the child that they are safe while they are with them. This can be established by being present with the child consistently during their time. The opposite could be leaving the child alone for long periods of time or leaving and returning at inconsistent intervals. This also brings out the importance of a predictable routine. By conducting daily interactions the same way or in a similar way, the child will begin to learn the routine and if the routine is disrupted the child has become adapted and can return to the baseline with less emotional distress.
Frustration tolerance is also important for both the child and the parent. Using consistent forms of positive reinforcement and a predictable discipline policy will result in the child responding more positively and the parent will also learn more controled forms of redirection that result in a more productive outcome. An example would be that when the child receives a consequence for throwing a ball at the television, it is important the child receive the same consequence if the action is repeated.  The same is for praise. If a child is given a reward for a positive action, this should be followed through with again, at realistic intervals, when the action is repeated.
One final approach, that may be more difficult to achieve, but with help with the child learning the routine is co-parenting. Each parent must strive to be consistent with the routes taken be achieve positive goals in the child’s development. This can be difficult if one or both parents are not interested in this approach. However if co-parenting occurs with respectable efforts given by both parties, the child can know what to predict within each home and this reinforces securities. One example would be to construct a sticker chart with simple goals for the child. These could consist of taking a bath, or picking up toys. The child receives a star when the goal is met. This chart can be passed between household to assist in structuring a consistent routine. A positive outcome can be achieved even if one parent remains consistent, in that the child will have a strong secure bond when the stimulus they encounter within the household is predictable.


  1. Growing up in a non-traditional home I find myself wishing that this information would have been made readily available to my parents.I think that most important aspect is the cooperation and goals of the parents. Open communication between split parents is key to providing consistency in the child's non-traditional life.
    -Jordan Milliken

  2. There is alot of good advice in your post. When my wife and I were foster parents one of the most important things was to give the kids a sense of being safe and secure. This was not an easy task. We had to learn how to make these children feel at home. This meant including them into our everyday routine and giving them alot of attention. Sometimes our own children were put aside, but just for a short time. I remeber the first children we had in our home were three brothers who had been in foster care for over six years. In that time they had been in 15 different foster homes, ours was number 16. They stayed with us for 3 1/2 years until they were returned home. Why the difference? I believe it is because they became our kids. We treated them no different than our own, with one exception, we did not spank them, but by this time my boys were too old for spankings also. - Sam Dillé

  3. When I think of a non-traditional home, I think of mine. My husband and I adopted two girls. The oldest was 22 hours old when we brought her home from the hospital and the youngest was 3 days old. I had briefly met their mothers before they were born. I was at the hospital when they were born. A lot of the kids they grew up with do not know that they are adopted. Nevertheless, ours is a non-traditional home. We have always made it known to them that they were adopted. The older they got, the more inquisitive they got about who their parents were. My biggest insecurity was being afraid the girls would leave once they were old enough to be on their own. Quite the contrary. My oldest daughter is married but she either comes by the house or calls everyday. My youngest daughter is 20 and still lives at home. She keeps telling us that she is never leaving. They do both know their biological parents and siblings but have no desire to leave us. I was so insecure about what would happen when they met their biological parents.
    Susan Davis