Please pick 2 of the topics below and discuss, based on the reading and your personal experience

 

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Please pick 2 of the topics below and discuss, based on the reading and your personal experience (if applicable), how those topics impact children.

  • Military families
  • Foster families
  • Child maltreatment
  • Chronic illness
  • Adoptive families
  • Stepfamilies
  • Gay/lesbian families

In addition to the above, please share a few “take-away” elements of the course that added to your understanding of parenting. Be thorough, thoughtful, and specific in your post. Think about what stood out to you during the semester.

SOME OF THE READING

Parenting, including how we parent and the experience of parenting is shaped by culture. Cultural factors shape experiences in a number of different ways. In this lesson, you will learn about the experiences of gay and lesbian parents, families who become parents through adoption, and how to encourage resilience in children and families.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Experiences of lesbian and gay parents, and their      children
  • Experiences of military, step, foster and homeless      families
  • Strategies for raising resilient children in      challenging times

Parents

Parents become parents in a variety of different ways, and families can take a number of different forms. In some cases, the ways families are formed, and the family structure can pose some additional challenges, including personal difficulties, legal struggles or social challenges. In many cases, these challenges are alleviated by an increasingly accepting culture that is more likely to welcome gay and lesbian parents, parents who use assisted reproductive technology (ART) and parents who opt for adoption rather than biological parenthood.

All parents have a responsibility to raise children who can function well in society, and who have the resilience they need to move forward in education, and later in the workplace. This resilience, or ability to bounce back from struggles, is one of the keys to success, and all parents, regardless of family structure, should work to help develop it in their children.

Gay and Lesbian Parents

Gay and lesbian parents express similar reasons to have children and create a family as heterosexual parents. The reasons include personal fulfillment, a desire to have a child, recreating happy family times from childhood, wanting to make children’s lives better, and perceiving raising children as a part of life and the next step in their relationship. Their journey to parenthood may involve adoption, fostering, use of assisted reproductive technology (ART), surrogates, or natural childbirth (Brooks, 2013).

Gay and lesbian parents may be single parents, but they are more likely to be living with a partner. They may experience the challenges of other parents like the stress of raising children, life difficulties, divorce, shared custody, or the challenges of single parenting. Depending upon the state they live in, they may also experience prejudice in terms of a lack of legal custodial rights as a parent, both for birth, as well as adoptive parents. Examples of these prejudices may include difficulty adopting as a couple, challenges getting a non-birth parent added to a child’s birth certificate, or other legal issues

Same-sex marriage became legal across the United States on June 26, 2015 with the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. This reduced the stress for some same-sex parents by providing an additional avenue for familial security. In addition, this ruling is likely, over time, to improve the situation regarding legalities for same-sex parents.

Young adult children of gay and lesbian parents report that the legal rights and benefits of same-sex marriage would have given their family psychological and material benefits that heterosexual married parents and their families automatically assume. Some of these denied benefits may include health care coverage, visitation rights for a nonlegal parent in the hospital, acknowledgment of the partnership of the parents, and legitimizing the relationship and family. In one study, a teen mentioned that she could not drive her nonbiological mother’s car because that parent was not the legally recognized parent. When only one parent has a legal tie to the children, this causes stress to the parents over concerns about discrimination and losing rights for access to the children (Brook, 2013). Following the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2015, families now have the option to marry legally and gain the rights and responsibilities associated with marriage in our culture.

In studies with lesbian partners in the last trimester of pregnancy, all of the participants believed that men would play a role in their child’s life, however, not a traditional role. Lesbian parents valued the interaction of male relatives and friends with their child, and this reflected a desire to provide their child with the best possible experiences (Brooks, 2013). Close male friends could fill that role, as could uncles and grandfathers. There is no shortage of options for male role models in female-headed families.

After the birth of a child, lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents experience an adjustment period while the new parents get used to their new roles, with sleep deprivation, less couple time, and balancing work and family responsibilities. Communication and beginning cooperative help to work through these issues help gay couples establish their parenting role. The adjustment to parenthood is a common and shared experience, regardless of the parents’ sexual identity.

When gay and lesbian parents are preparing for adoption, they experience similar levels of anticipation, anxiety, and tension about the adoption process as heterosexual parents. Lesbian parents may also experience grief and depression about their inability to conceive, if assisted reproductive technologies (ART) have failed. Both gay and heterosexual parents seek family and friend support when facing infertility or considering adoption. Gay and lesbian parents are less likely to receive family support for adoption unless they have been in a long-term relationship. When family is unavailable or unwilling to provide support, gay and lesbian parents tend to rely on friend support to replace family support

Other issues for gay and lesbian parents may be the choice of a last name. Some parents choose a hyphenated name or the name of the legal parent; today, married couples make these choices in the same way a heterosexual couple would. Lesbian and gay parents also need to discuss what the child will call each parent and to acknowledge their roles (e.g., Mama, Mom, Daddy, Dad, or Papa).

Parents are concerned that their children will be teased and bullied because of the parents’ partnership. They may try to live in areas where their family will be accepted, and where their children can see and know couples and families with similar dynamics. Despite changing social acceptance for same-sex marriage and children within this type of relationship, discrimination is still an occurrence. Sometimes parents may be restricted from school activities or trips or only one parent may be allowed to be involved (Brooks, 2013).

Children’s Experiences in Gay and Lesbian Families

Goldberg (as cited in Brooks, 2013) studied the responses of children brought up by same-sex parents. When children are born into families with same-sex parents, they gradually become aware of their parents’ sexuality. With a supportive family, they also come to accept their parents’ sexuality and the challenges that come with a relationship that is not generally accepted within mainstream society.

When a child is not born into a family with same-sex parents and the parent directly or indirectly reveals his or her sexual orientation, the child’s reaction can involve worry, fear of rejection by their peers, or fear that their peers will believe that they are gay or lesbian. This scenario is more likely if the parent comes out later in life. It is not a common issue for parents adopting an older child, but rather for a child who believes his or her parents are heterosexual and is surprised to discover otherwise. In many cases, this discovery may follow or accompany a divorce in the family.

These boundaries can be established by controlling parental behavior at school events or when friends visit the home. They can also decide not to go to certain places with their parents.

Children can choose not to reveal their parents’ sexual orientation.

Children can choose to only tell trusted people about their parents’ sexual orientation (Brooks,2013).

t is important to note that many children in many communities feel comfortable sharing their families with peers and do not rely upon these strategies, nor do they feel a need to. In many cases, the use of these strategies reflects coping mechanisms associated with children adjusting to having a gay or lesbian parent.

Research on Children of Same-Sex Couples

Young adult children of same-sex parents report that growing up they experienced teasing and acts of discrimination with thoughtless comments by peers and adults. These comments were often from individuals who disapproved of their family structure. They also felt stress from trying to hide their parent’s sexual orientation, even if secrecy was their own choice. As adults, they identified that the support from parents, extended family members, and friends were the most important factors in their childhood that helped them in difficult times. Supportive parents who were open and communicative about their sexual orientation and extended family members who listened and discussed how to handle rejection helped these children learn how to cope and problem solve situations.

Research on the gender identity, psychological stability, and the ability to develop social relationships has shown that children of same-sex parents are well-adjusted socially and emotionally and do not have an increased likelihood of having a gay or lesbian identity. While the sexual orientation of a child’s parent does not predict behavioral issues, the quality of the parent and teen relationship does predict a teen’s behavior. A positive and supportive relationship with the parents predicted a teen’s academic success, psychological stability, and ability to relate socially to peers.

Supporting Your Child While a Parent Is Deployed

Download Files  Feb 3, 2007

Even the youngest baby can miss her deployed parent. Here’s how to ease the loss by continuing to offer loving activities and routines.

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Caregivers can be supportive to their infant and toddler by simply understanding how the young child’s emotions and behaviors are connected. Caregivers who recognize that young children often communicate their feelings through their behaviors may be more likely to respond with empathy and patience, rather than with frustration and anger. Learn how to pick up on these behaviors and how best to respond.

 

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Deployment can take a heavy toll on military families. As parents of young children cope with their own feelings, it is easy for them to lose sight of what their babies or toddlers may be experiencing. Although often unable to express themselves well, babies and toddlers do miss the active duty parent and need help getting through this difficult time.

Even the youngest baby can miss her deployed parent. The earliest years have so much to do with making positive bonds and building trust. Very young children are wired to seek close and trusting relationships with their caregivers. Through everyday routines such as reading books, changing diapers, feeding, cuddling, and soothing, parents provide experiences that build bonds. When the deployed parent leaves, so do some of these sources of comfort. Fortunately, the remaining caregiver can help ease this loss by continuing to offer loving activities and routines.

Caregivers can be supportive during deployments simply by understanding how young children’s emotions and behaviors are connected. Young children who are missing their parent might show changes in behavior, including regression (a return to earlier behaviors, such as thumb sucking), clinginess, sleep difficulties, aggression, and/or other challenging behaviors. Caregivers who recognize that young children often communicate their feelings through their behaviors may be more likely to respond with empathy and patience, rather than with frustration and anger.

It is important for babies and toddlers to stay connected with the active duty parent as much as possible during deployment. A young child needs to know that his parent remains an important part of the family and that he is held in his parent’s heart and mind. This can be communicated in so many different ways! For example, letters, photos, and artwork can be exchanged and celebrated throughout the deployment. These things can be placed in albums or other special places, available to a young child to explore before and after the parent’s return. The remaining caregiver can share memories of the deployed parent, including times that the parent spent with the young child. These stories can paint a vivid and loving picture of the deployed parent and the special role that parent played, and continues to play, in the child’s life.

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There are many other activities that can help keep family members fee connected. Prior to deployment, the active duty parent can videotape himself or herself reading books and/or singing songs. The videotape can be played daily, even becoming a part of the bedtime routine. Pictures of the deployed parent can be hung on the wall, refrigerator, or even given to the child for them to carry around, kiss, or talk to every day. Young children can get a “kiss” from the deployed parent every night by grabbing a Hershey’s chocolate out of a big bowl. These kinds of experiences can become their own comforting routines and rituals.

During a combat deployment, family members may be understandably anxious about the active duty parent’s safety and turn to news coverage for information. It’s important that caregivers are sensitive to the impact that news media images may have on children, even babies and toddlers. Very young children can feel distressed and confused, both by the sights and sounds coming from the television and by their caregivers’ reactions. Caregivers who are too focused on the media coverage may become upset or not as attuned to the needs of their young children. It is important that families have access to direct and reliable sources of information, such as command-sponsored spouse organizations, whose representatives will be available to address their fears and concerns. Caregivers can then focus their energy and attention, not on the television but on establishing a relaxed and nurturing home for themselves and their children.

The deployment stage can be exhausting, and it is important for parents and caregivers to find ways to be good to themselves. By nurturing themselves, they have a greater capacity to care for their babies and toddlers. Families are encouraged to seek support through relatives, friends, and community agencies. Counseling services, playgroups, spiritual organizations, parenting education services, and child-care agencies are often readily available to military families, both on and off installation. Contact your installation Family Center or Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 for support and referral.

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