Parenting Help - Have a Plan

You have probably heard many suggestions over the years on how to raise your children. You have probably been given advice from your friends, your family, and from outsiders (like us).
Remember this: You know your child best and you need to learn what works best for your child and your family dynamic. You know your child's temperament and his/her personality and you also know your own personality and how children can sometimes push your buttons. While you can learn from all suggestions, you still need to decide which ones will work best for you and your child. Always keep an open mind! Feel free to experiment with suggestions.

Anticipate and plan.

Anticipate! You are heading out the door for a family dinner that is 60 miles away. You already know your four year old, and anticipate before you leave that by the time you arrive for dinner he will be bored and cranky from the long ride. And since he is a picky eater, you anticipate there will be arguments over the meal.

Plan! How can you keep him from becoming too bored on the drive? Will a couple of picture books help? How about a few toys? Maybe a tape player playing his favorite music? (with his own earphones).

How can you avoid the arguments over what he will/will not eat? Can you feed him before you leave and then allow him to snack at the family dinner? Perhaps you could bring along some of his favorite foods (although many children are not turned off by the foods at the family dinner. They are more uncomfortable trying to eat in a strange environment.)

The goal here is not to coddle or spoil the child. The goal is to help him grow into a socially responsible person. If, every time you go to a family dinner it ends in a fight, it teaches him to be apprehensive about social events and he learns to dislike family functions because it means a struggle.

Children change and grow as they develop through different stages of childhood. Don’t worry, you won’t be bending over backwards for the rest of your life. What you are doing by anticipating and planning is finding a way to help your child learn a different behavior pattern and grow as an individual.

Anticipate! You are separated parents and you are taking your daughter to meet your ex-spouse and she will be staying at your ex-spouse's home for the weekend. Your daughter does not want to leave the comforts of her primary home. Her toys are there; her friends are there; and her routines are something she can count on. You know that she must get used to going to your ex-spouse's home and that you need to make her transition as easy as possible.

Plan! Have a talk with your daughter ahead of time and tell her that she will be staying at the other parent's home. Don't spring it on her at the last minute. Ask her questions about staying there and see if she has any fears or concerns she would like to discuss. Open up a dialogue and let her ask you questions. Ease the fears by light hearted conversation. Never criticize the other parent or ask your child to spy while she is there. Allow your child to stay a child wherever she goes and never expect her to be a go-between for you and your ex-spouse. Allow your daughter to take mementos from home -- favorite toys, clothes, books. Whatever makes your child comfortable at home should be allowed to go to the other parent's home. Allow your child access to the other parent at all times. Reassure your child that you can be reached for anything, including reassurance if needed.

Leaving home to go to a strange place is not easy for adults so you know it can't be easy for your child. Plan ahead to make things easy and you will have less resistance when the time comes to actually leave their comfort zone.

Anticipating and planning take away the anxiety and stress for both you and your child. It might take some creativity to anticipate and plan for all events, but it will get easier with practice. In the long run, it will make your life much easier. Try something, and if it doesn't work try something else. Families are about growth and change, but you won't know what will or will not work if you don't give it a try.

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