Just grow up!

Parenthood is a defining phase in a person’s life. A little, vulnerable creature is depending on us completely for her life and sustenance now and for the next 18 years of her life. Talk about responsibility!

Historically, women have shouldered most of the responsibility of childrearing. As a result, mothering is directly correlated with maturation for women. Women’s own views of themselves as mothers as well as societal expectations around motherhood influence women’s behavior.

In general, mothers are more future-oriented than non-mothers of the same age. They tend to be more stable and more risk-averse. Mothers statistically perform the majority of childcare duties and are more often primary caregivers of their children.

Recent changes in gender roles and cultural shifts mean that fathers are increasingly involved in childrearing and parenting duties. Fathers today spend more time with their children than fathers of days past, and they are more aware of and responsive to their child’s needs and emotional development than their fathers were.

Father or mother, parents’ attachment to their children inhibits the parent’s desire and/or their ability to stay out all night, disappear for days at a time, spend all their money or otherwise engage in immature and self-centered behavior.

I presented a webinar this week entitled “After Incarceration: When the Parent Returns.” The goal of the webinar was to educate fellow social workers on how we can positively engage with families affected by incarceration and help parents reintegrate into their families after release from prison or jail.

Some of the questions I fielded during the webinar related to what social workers can do when other family members or the other parent (mom or dad) acts as a barrier to the formerly incarcerated parent resuming the parent-child relationship. Sometimes the immaturity of other people in the child’s life is the greatest barrier to the child having a normal relationship with both parents.

Research on child development and long-term research on the human life span shows us that children are best served by the involvement and love of both parents in their lives. Certainly, there are exceptions to this when the child’s safety is at risk. In many cases, though, it is immaturity and an unwillingness to put aside personal differences that cause problems between parents and their children.

Being a parent means nothing if not putting the needs of your child ahead of your own wants. Adults make mistakes, but children needn’t suffer for them.

To parents and others who are allowing their own immaturity to affect a child’s relationship with mom and dad, just grow up!


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