When you picture a “normal” family, what do you see? Is it the traditional notion of one male parent and one female parent, two kids, and a family pet? Or do you see something different? Or perhaps you reject the notion of a “normal” family altogether?
Recent court and legislative activity have opened the institution of marriage to same-gender couples. Regardless of your political position or whether you think this is a wise move, it is happening. Today 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by single mothers without a father anywhere in the picture. And nearly 30% of all families today are single parent families. Another 5% of children aren’t living with a “traditional” parent at all, but with grandparents or other family members.
Simply put, mainstream society is changing in our country. It’s important to keep that in mind because sometimes (particularly with affluence) we may not always be aware of changes taking place outside our personal norms. Why not? Well, we often attend institutions – like churches and schools, for example-where most everyone else looks and thinks like we do.
While we may feel more comfortable in these arenas, we need to push the boundaries with our kids for their sake. Regardless of our politics, visible American culture is changing. We cannot expect voluntary segregation of our society-by race, socioeconomic status, or any other factor-to continue.
So how can we help our kids be open to cultural and familial differences and to embrace the complexities therein? Children are best prepared through modeling and practice. This is the true inheritance we leave behind.
Be cognizant of the cultural norms you promote without saying a word, through your choice of neighborhoods, entertainment, institutions, and even the company you keep. It is critical that American children remain open to differences and complexities, to enable them to work and play with those who may be different from them as our society moves forward to keep in step with the ever evolving nature of our world.
Ultimately, estate planning isn’t just about passing on your money. It’s about passing on your whole family wealth, which includes your values, insights, stories and experience, most of which is passed on without awareness. When you can bring awareness to estate planning, however, beyond simply the financial pieces, you are giving your children a true gift that doesn’t last just a lifetime, but for many generations to come.