May 25, 2011

Being a Presence in Your Child's Life

As a follow up to my blog about how separated parents must keep the peace in the hopes that co-parenting can be established and then maintained, I'm discussing how all parents can remain a presence in their children's lives even when they're not physically there. I originally thought about this topic for the parent who lives outside of the child's home, but these techniques can be applied regardless of the parenting situation.
I interact with Dylan mostly through impromptu and casual conversations. Not only does it give me the opportunity to track and be amazed by her growing vocabulary, she's given the opportunity to voice her opinion and be the lead in a conversation without having to ask a question first. For instance, every morning I start Dylan's day with a question, "how did you sleep?" From there she'll tell me about her dreams, about what she didn't tell me about her day the evening before or even continue to try and convince me why she doesn't need to go to sleep every night. From there, we continue talking about everything from what she's watching on Nick Jr. or PBS Kids, to her breakfast, the weather, what I'm watching on ESPN or the book she'd like her teacher to read during circle time. It's time that we both enjoy and is a great way to start our days.

I use that same method when I pick her up from school in the afternoons. I also use these conversations to inform her of her schedule: we'll be going to the library after school and we'll read a book on the bus ride home. When we get home it's dinner, bath and then bed. She can try her hardest from there to renegotiate the order of the evening; I especially enjoy those exchanges. So chat with your child daily whether in person, via phone or video. It doesn't matter the means in which these conversations take place or the topic(s), just that they take place.

I also try my best to be involved with her school activities as often as I can. If there's a special event or trip and I can attend, I do. If I can't, I talk it up with her so she knows I share her excitement. If I can take time to volunteer in the classroom, I do so - it makes our conversations about her friends, teachers and school staff easier to follow and understand. It's a great way to get to know the teachers and staff and an easy way to establish and maintain a repore with both as well. And the relationship you have with the teachers and staff is especially important for each separated parent. Here's where additional information can be shared about both your child's educational and personality growth and development. This is information not even the primary caregiver is privy to so take advantage and reap the benefits of what a few conversations with a teacher can bring.

Now the intangibles, the little things. You have to know the names of the most important people in your child's life. Friends, family, cartoon or video game characters, teachers, mentors and even the bullies should be in your mental rolodex. Anything that consistently makes up a part of your child's day is of some importance and should be duly noted. As they get older, the importance of each individual changes almost daily so those daily conversations become even more important to you.

These are just a few examples of how I try to be present in Dylan's life. As parents, we have to find creative ways to be an important person in our children's lives. And not just because we provide them with the basic necessities and wants that make their world's go 'round. We have to be sure that we are significant to them so that when they are not with us, our influence will still be. It's no easy task and I'm no expert. But even at the age of five, I can see how important it is to be sure that Dylan knows that I care about what she thinks and feels and that what goes on in her life is important to me.

If we keep our kids our #1 priority, no matter how busy we get we'll have the time for the conversations, events, games, hugs, kisses and cuddle time. If you doubt this, then my question to you is if your child is not THE most important thing to you, what is? Until parents take accountability and measure their success by the success of their children, we will continue to lose them. Be a part of the solution and make an effort to be present in your child's life every available moment.

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