Despite all the negative press about the decline of the American family, it could be argued that this is the best time ever to be a parent. No longer confined to rigid roles like “breadwinner” or “homemaker,” parents today have alternatives like flex-time, family leave, and telecommuting to help you balance work and family. More parents than ever are creating home-based businesses in order to stay at home with children. In addition to the increased flexibility of contemporary family life, research in child and family development has exploded during the last 50 years. Using the internet, parents can now access resources that could only have been imagined when they were children. Thus, parents in the Information Age have more options and resources than any previous generation of parents.
With all of these choices and alternatives come new challenges. First, divorce and remarriage have changed the definition of a “normal” family, as the traditional two-person parent home is now in the minority in America. According to media pundits, divorce, remarriage and single parenthood are responsible for the decline of the American family. However, being raised in a non-traditional family does not necessarily create problems for children. Parents who are reliable and in tune with the developmental needs of their children create a stable home environment, regardless of who lives in the house.
Second, technology can sustain at-risk chidren, such as low birth weight babies or children with chronic illnesses. But once the medical crisis is resolved, a child may experience educational and social adjustment problems for which most parents are not prepared. Helping at-risk children establish independent living skills and find their niche in the world can become a life-long challenge for parents.
Third, the pace of family life in the Information Age is much more hectic than a generation ago. The more plugged in we have become as a culture, the more emotionally distant we have become in our families. We have also become more short-sighted, searching for quick fixes and discarding tradition as we try to cope with threats to our children that did not exist a generation ago. While we may long for a return to the days depicted in the paintings of Norman Rockwell and TV shows like “Ozzie and Harriett,” our children are reared in a world marred by violence at school, drug dealers in the neighborhood, and sexual predators on the internet. As the world around us changes so quickly, the mission of parents in the Information Age must be to help children become adaptive and flexible.
Children today need to be technically saavy, yet emotionally aware. In an age where more information can be stored on a single DVD than was available in the school library of a generation ago, reasoning skills are more important than memorization. Ethical dilemmas created by breakthroughs in biotechnology and medicine will have to be resolved by future generations. Technology and human ethics can coexist. It is our obligation to provide an educational foundation that will prepare our children to make decisions that capitalize upon new technology while preserving our cherished traditions.
To help you find this balance, I suggest the following principles as Goals for Parenting in the Information Age:
- Build a home on a foundation of trust
- Identify your child’s kind of mind
- Cultivate emotional intelligence in your children
- Preserve values and traditions
- Master the new technology but use it to connect
- Keep abreast of research in child development but maintain a healthy level of skepticism
To learn more about the goals above, click on the document below.