The American family structure has shifted dramatically in the past 50-plus years. Less than half of U.S. children are raised in a traditional setting – nearly a 30% drop since the early 1960s.
What that means in terms of quality of life for children from non-traditional families – chances of a stable upbringing, career success, etc. – isn’t always clear. But a non-traditional family structure can provide parents a great opportunity: To teach values, such as gender equality, that their children can someday apply in the workplace and with their own families.
“Growing up in a non-traditional family can help children gain sensitivity and compassion for other cultures and lifestyles, and it helps them break free of the gender stereotypes that pervade our society,” says Andreas Wilderer (www.andreaswilderer.com), a stay-at-home father and author of Lean On: The Five Pillars Of Support For Women In Leadership.
“They will not distinguish between ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s duties.’ Such biases have held back countless people from reaching their potential. In a non-traditional family, parents have a prime opportunity to teach their children by example that they need not fit into anybody’s mold. They can help their children to feel more comfortable while coping with a lifestyle much different from that of some of their friends.”
Non-traditional families come in many forms – a single-parent home, a blended family led by second-marriage parents, a same-sex marriage with children, or parents like Wilderer and his wife taking on non-traditional roles. (There are an estimated 2 million stay-at-home dads in the U.S.) Wilderer offers three ways parents in non-traditional homes can help their children’s confidence as well as their understanding of gender equality:
- Take them on a business trip. “The mystery of why mom goes away on business is removed,” Wilderer says. “Your son or daughter should feel your enthusiasm and dedication for what you do. It’s a great opportunity to instill a healthy work ethic and attitude, while also demonstrating that any job includes routine moments that aren’t exciting.”
- Involve them in planning family activities. This could mean vacations, meals during the week, summer camps, etc. “When you give children that opportunity, you strengthen your bond with them,” Wilderer says. “When the children feel they are active participants in the family’s planning and know that someone cares enough to listen to them, their confidence will deepen, and they’ll better understand their family model and their place in it.”
- Hold open, honest family meetings. Problems come up, as with any family. How they are addressed in a non-traditional family can be tricky. Wilderer says communication, in the form of regular family meetings where both the good and the bad are aired, is essential. “Give your children a voice more and more as they grow,” he says. “Meet as a family at least once a month, go over the good things that happened and the most challenging things. Of key importance is expressing feelings and finding solutions. Through it all, remain respectful and open to one another.”
“Taking the right steps to help your children cope with a non-traditional family lifestyle is no small matter,” Wilderer says. “As adults in the household gain confidence in themselves through their roles, the children likewise will gain their own confidence. And when the kids are grown up, they will have no misgivings about managing their businesses and families the same way.”
About Andreas Wilderer
Andreas Wilderer (www.andreaswilderer.com) is the author of Lean On: The Five Pillars Of Support For Women in Leadership. A business leader and entrepreneur, Wilderer worked in the event and marketing field and in 2016 founded GLOBULARiTY LLC, a business coaching company that helps leaders grow and learn how to strengthen their Adaptability Quotient (AQ). While working on his business pursuits, Wilderer stayed at home and cared for his two children while his wife pursued her career. Recognizing that women can be providers and men can be nurturers, Wilderer began focusing on coaching female leaders while teaching men how to actively support them. He is also a Gallup-certified strengths coach.