Do You Treat Your Child As The Most Important Person In Your Life?
Parents Become Your Child's #1 Confidant
Happy '2012' New Year! First, how was everyone's holiday? I just had one of the most wonderful holiday season with my two children! Daughters ... one 26, and the other 22! Yes, they are, now, fully grown; however, we are as close as we, always, have been - before I became an empty nester. They both came home to spend the holidays with me! Wasn't that sweet? Several of my friends are always asking me, what is, or was, my secret, how did I do it; and as a single parent? They are always telling me how impressed they are with the young women that my girls have become. Even, those that I consider only acquaintances, are always complimenting me! I give my girls the credit; they have just made me so proud, now, and over the past years.
Some of the people that give me compliments have been having some major issues with their children; and, most of these children, came from a two-parent home! This is one of the reasons that I do not agree, completely; with, the theory, that single parents are not able to raise their children, properly. I remember, once, at Church, when my children were young, someone telling me that it was a shame that my husband and I divorced, and that he did not want to be part of the children's lives. He, then, went on to say that I, probably, was going to have a handful of trouble, as they became older, having no father figure in their life. I responded telling him that they do have a Father, God; and that He was going to give me the strength to, properly, raise my girls. I believe that it all depends on the way the children are raised, loved, and treated ... as to what type of adult that they will become; single or two-parent household. By the way, this man has a son, and a daughter. His daughter became pregnant at 16. This makes you clear your throat, a lot; doesn't it?
Really, I do not have any special secrets. I have always treated my children as the most important people in my life; and, both, as their own individual. And, I still do. I do not mean that I treat them as my equal; because they are not. I am their parent, and they are MY children. And, that is what I will, always, be to them; and myself to them. I, also, do not believe in a parent being a friend to their child(ren). You are NOT their friend, you are their parent(s); and, as their parent, you are their teacher, listener, disciplinary, and role model. What you want to know, as their parent, and are, also, willing to, constantly, work at, and on (everyday), is to let them know that they can always confide ANYTHING, and everything, to you; no matter what.
Yes, they may be your children; however, as most parents know, all children are different. One approach may work with one child; however, not necessarily, with another child. "Different strokes for different folks!" lol Therefore, you must know each of your children, inside and out. Find out what makes them tick, what buttons to push to bring out the best in them (and, sometimes, the opposite), and most of all, learn what cool things, or ideas, that they have, and believe, the family should do, or start doing. It is not just important to know them; but to follow through, and do some of them - if the idea is within reason, and your budget, of course. Make them feel that they, too, are a very important part of the family; and that their voice has some part, in the family decision making.
My approach with my children, for what we considered important family decisions, was to designate a day, and have family meetings, on that day; where we discussed important issues, or voted on something, that affected the entire family. The designated date would change throughout the weeks, months, and years, etc., as one of us would have a conflict with the day, or time, due to another obligation. For example, as the children became older, they had sports, or other activities, that they were participants of. And, of course, there were only 3 of us; so, if we didn't have a unanimous decision, all that was needed was for two of us to concur. If you have an even number of family members, my advice is that you should always know how, and all agree, as to how a tie breaker will be handled, before you start having your family meetings, and/or votes. That way the solution will be fair; and not just something created, or thought up, at the spur of the moment.
I did not believe in discussing business during meal times (which, by the way, I believe, that families should ALWAYS make it possible to, at least, have dinner together). If you can manage having breakfast, together, also, and even lunch; I am all for it. In this crazy world, family activities like these do not seem to exist anymore. However, getting back to why I did not believe in discussing business-type discussions, during meal times; is that I grew up, and always believed, that meal time is when family members should share what they have done while apart, to discuss their day; since they last sat down, with their family. Joyful and interesting topics; for example, if the children had a good day at school, etc. Sometimes, during this time, there may be something that does come up, that is business related, etc., that need to be addressed, discussed, or handled; therefore the parent(s) should make allowances for this. Always listen to your children. What you believe may be unimportant, may seem like life, or death, to your child! Put yourself in their place, and remember when you were their age.
When I was at work, I always became angry with anyone, including a boss (YES, a boss), that would tell my children that I was too busy, or could not speak with them, if they called my job. I was, and am, NEVER too busy, when it came, or comes, to my children. If I was away from my desk, with a client; I wanted whoever answered my phone to come get me, if it was one of my children, their school, etc. Again, what may not be so important to some people, including the parent, must be important to your child, if they call you; even, if they only want to just hear your voice. Who knows, maybe for some particular reason they need that. Maybe, the, actual, sound of their parent's voice calms them, relaxes them, comforts them, etc; who knows ... they are your children, and they should be your first priority. Stop, doing what you are doing, and talk to them. Give them those few, precious, minutes. I am sure that you take breaks at work, when you want to take one, to go smoke (if you smoke), get a snack, just getting up to stretch your legs, or something; so, what is the difference? How many parents are you always hearing are claiming that they are doing something for their family, or children; as an excuse for doing, or not doing something? Well, helloooo? Prove it to your children; that they really matter! Do not be a 'Do as I say, not what I do ' parent. Children DOES see you as their role model; and, they are going to do as you do , and see only what they see. If you do not believe their call, etc. is important; why should they believe that when you call them, etc., that yours are important. If you do not listen to them; do you, really, believe that they are going to listen to you?
When planning a trip, I always allowed my girls to input their thoughts, as to where we should go. Of course, some were family trips, where it was a mandate that we were going; however, I was an Army Brat, and one of the pleasures I got out of that was the moving, and traveling to different places. Unfortunately, I seemed to be the only one of my father's children that had the travel bug! My mom and three siblings were not crazy about traveling anywhere. They always complained. Anyhow, when my father went anywhere, for a pleasure trip, and the rest of the family chose not to go; I would volunteer to travel with him, whether a two hour trip, or an 18 hour trip. I loved it!
Anyway, getting back to my girls; I wanted them to experience traveling to different places. Therefore, we decided that we were going to visit all of the States, in the U.S., before my oldest graduated High School, and went to College. I say 'went' because that was understood, also. It was never 'IF' you went to College; it was a given, that you 'are' going to College. Therefore, getting back to the planning of the trips, where we were going, is what we would decide; usually, at the beginning of the New Year. For one, during their Spring Break, one, during their summer vacation, and one, during their Christmas Break; each year, we would decide on which States we were going to. This way, I could figure out, and know, how much money was needed, that had to be saved up for the trips, hotel stays, activities, exploration, and souvenirs. Loving Memories! The trips were so fun, also; and, I will always have these memories. We never did make it to Florida, Disney World; something kept coming up! And, my youngest, like me, caught the traveling bug; however, she expanded her horizons. I say this, because during her College years, besides studying abroad, in Madrid, Spain; she visited 9 other foreign countries. Her Senior Year, she and a schoolmate, back-packed South America, the whole month of their Christmas Break.
These family trips were important to me because besides having fun, it was quality time spent with family only (bringing us even more closer together); plus, I saw it as learning experiences for my daughters, broadening their horizons (seeing how other people lived in other States), meeting, and learning, from different State Citizens, and expanding their knowledge, intellectually). Both of my girls were straight A students; always making honor rolls, and earning distinguished recognition(s). Earning academic recognition, one of them landed an academic scholarship, at a distinguished University. As I stated earlier, and will say again, my girls are my pride and joy!
Another tidbit that I want to offer is to make one night a week; a family game night. Take turns, letting each family member pick the game, for the following week, that the family will play. No television, no music, no cell phones, or anything that takes a family members attention away from the hours of Family Game Night allowed. This, even, includes friends coming over. The purpose of this time, is to spend time with the family. If there are younger children, one adult should sit out of the game; and help the younger children, play, as to what they are to do. Another smart option, is to let the younger children, purposely *wink*, win sometimes; so they will feel included in the games. Also, include any older children in this plan; however, to make it more believable, and creditable. Young children are not as naive as they used to be; therefore, everyone need to be good actors, too. lol
Also, if any relatives came, to my house, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, etc; because it was, already, well-known to them (because I always would let relatives in on, as to how my children were being raised, and our family rules, at our house), they would participate in whatever. We had several fun family get-together(s). In fact, my children informed me, once, that I am known as the fun Aunt, among my nieces, and nephews, their cousins (because I played games and took my children on awesome vacations). My children would, often, tell me that their cousins envied them.
Finally, (although, there are more suggestions, that I did, when raising my children, that I can tell you) one of my best ones, was making a weekly date with my children. One date, or more, per month, were with both children, together; and one week-night, per month, would be just a mother-daughter date, one daughter, at a time. I wanted each to feel special. My girlfriend, and her husband, would babysit the other one; whose turn it was not. My girlfriend had two boys; and started doing the same, with her boys. She loved my idea. While on the dinner dates, I learned a lot about each daughter. Plus, it was amazing on how much they shared, with me. Some things that they told me; would be things that they did; where they would first, lead up to what they were going to tell me. But, also, letting me know that it was not anything, really, bad, that they believe that they did; but, something that they knew that I would not like (they would say that they did whatever because of peer pressure). They, also, would ask my advice, at times, like when they were getting older, about boys, etc. They would tell me, things like, if anyone was trying to talk them into doing drugs, smoke, etc; and, would tell me who, to make sure that I did not make, nor arrange, for them do anything with that person, or invite them into my home. I was friends with several of their young friend's parents. The deal, that I always had with them, was that I would not tell anyone what they told me, unless, I believed it to be a life, harming oneself, or death situation. In fact, I have the same deal on FaceBook** (FB), currently, with my daughters, and any of their friends, that I friended on FB. You would not believe how forthcoming, and open (even, if they know it is something that will make you mad, or upset, with them), that your children will be, if you raise them, and treat them as the most important person in your life , and show them that you will stay calm, and discuss situations with them, and keep your word (whatever you promised not to do, or react to). Please, do not make any promise that you know that you can't keep, and/or will not keep. I ALWAYS thanked my children, for their honesty (even, now), after they told me anything, even, if it made me unhappy with them. And, they always believed that any punishment, if needed, was suitable (we always discussed what a suitable punishment would be, according to the no-no, they were guilty of, also). It was so funny, to me, in a way; on how open they were. They told me that they never wanted to disappoint me, nor wanted me to find anything out, that they did, from anyone else; and they never wanted to feel as if they were hiding, or keeping, anything from me. Keeping it, from me, I guess, made them feel, even, more guilty; than the whatever wrong that they did, itself. lol In some ways, they are still like that; although, now that they are adults, I know that they are doing some things, that they are, most likely, keeping from me. However, because they are now adults; I can only hope that I did a good job, in raising them, where they will, always, keep a level, and sensible, head.
I recommend to start all, that I mentioned above, when your child, or children, are young. While you are doing what I suggested, above; you will find yourself becoming, even, more creative, and coming up with new, and different, ways to, naturally, become a trusted confidant of your children. While my girls were growing up, I always tried to show them that I had their back no matter what; however, the thought of their teen years, in the back of my mind, had me really unsure, scared, and worried. Especially, when hearing about teen problems, often, on the news. Hey, after all, they are girls! I believe that girls are harder to raise, than boys. For anyone with boys; hopefully, you can have the same outcome, that I had. Especially, any single mothers out there; where there is not a man in your son's life. Maybe, you can get them involved in one of those mentoring programs, or the Boy Scouts. However, my girls turned out to be well-adjusted, trustworthy teens. They would, even, call me to come get them, whenever, they went anywhere and saw that drinking, drugs, or anything illegal was going on. I had requested this of them, also. I always stressed to them about drunk drivers, smoking, and drinking. I am so grateful; and feel like I was really blessed, to get them this far!
Remember, a child is NEVER too old for you to reach, if you find that you have not been practicing any of this. YOU have to change, to begin to make a connection. Remember, however you believe your child is, YOU raised them to become the person that they are. It may be more difficult to connect, with them, to become a real confidant, and really close; however, anything is possible. If you keep at it, make family time, eat meals together, dinner dates, always be understanding (meaning, do not hit the roof because you believe that you are doing everything right; but, your child doesn't seem interested), etc; you can, and will, earn your child's trust, that he, or she, can tell you anything. Trust me, they will be noticing the change, in you; however, because you are a 'new' you, they are going to be cautious, aloof, and, probably, a little bewildered, wondering what is going on, if it is some kind of trick! Just always follow through, with the plan, stay positive, etc., and, one day, your child will take a chance (maybe, even test you; so, please, do not react wrong), and you will start making a closer connection, to your child. Hopefully, a lasting one.
**FB is another way to keep up with your child's activities, etc.; however, just make sure that you let your child know that 'what you see on FB, will stay on FB; unless it is life, harmful, or death!' This means, unless he, or she, bring it up to you, or mention it to you, you cannot approach, or say anything to he, or she, about anything that you found out about, on FB. All you can do is trust your child; otherwise, you will undo everything that I am suggesting that you build, with your child. "A family that prays together, stays together!"