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Effective Fathering When You Are Frequently Away

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In today’s world of family life, it is not just men who may be working exceptionally long hours outside the home. However, it is men who have historically found it more difficult to build strong relationships with each of their family members. For many husbands and fathers, being dedicated to creating a successful career is still what they consider to be the main way of expressing their caring. But in these times of shifting marital roles and new realizations that relationship intimacy is a significant factor in one’s physical health, men are being urged to become more “connected” to their wives and children. Of course, some have found this much easier than others. In this column, I want to address a specific subgroup of fathers, those whose work demands long hours outside the home, and make some suggestions as to how to still be able to have a meaningful presence in the lives of their children.

The men I’m referring to are not just “workaholics.” Many are simply in the early stages of careers that require exceptional time commitments while others are working two jobs or lots of overtime in order to keep ahead of the bills. Some also do shift work and the hours take them out of the home at the main time when their children are awake. I want to emphasize that in my conversations with many of these men, they are distressed about their absence but see themselves as having little choice other than giving up important, lifelong career aspirations or being unable to provide their share of the income that husband and wife have aspired to. Unfortunately, the corporate world still only gives lip service to “family values” and few offer the flexibility that allows either working parent the opportunity to spend valuable time with their children.

So what can fathers do when they leave early and/or come home late, or are on the road for days or weeks at a time? In a word, be creative. Add a second word, bond. Delete a third word, control. The main error many fathers make is walking into the house and feeling pressure to make up for their absence by trying to “fix” their children. Wives and children react very negatively to what I call “re-entry criticism.” To begin with, men tend to feel like they are on the periphery of the family. Mothers are the “experts” when it comes to parenting. This hierarchical thinking gets exaggerated when fathers are not around a lot. But fathers feel they need to assert their influence. Since even “good parents” of either sex have been shown to make 15-20 critical comments to their child for every positive one (Children do have a lot to learn!), it’s not surprising that fathers would try to teach “values” to their children in their compacted time to interact, resulting in an intensifying of critical comments.

“I want to make sure he’s trying his best.” “It’s a tough world out there. It’s important for her to be willing to try new things and be assertive.” Unfortunately, the critiquing that comes from these concerns, in the context of a limited father-child relationship, is often painful to the child and results in less influence because the child begins to shut the father out. Instead of trying to “mold” their children, fathers should use their limited contact to create a stronger bond with the child. This may consist of rolling on the floor with a preschooler, taking one child whenever you go out to do errands, focusing on the successful aspects of schoolwork and being more interested in what a child is learning than the actual grades, or learning about the musical interests of your teenager. It doesn’t preclude being a disciplinarian, but that should be reserved for things that happen when you are at home, unless it is a very serious problem that both parents need to address with the child.

Being creative doesn’t mean buying gifts to make up for lost time. It refers to finding ways to connect with each child when you are home for limited time or away when your children are awake. It may mean reading a bedtime story over the phone. It could be having a fax machine in your home and being able to send notes/drawings to a young child. This can be especially helpful to fathers who are on the road a lot. Sending a daily picture depicting local weather conditions helps a child to better imagine where you are. With the capacity of the Internet, it becomes possible to not only send emails but pictures. Thus, even from time zones that have you out of sync with your child’s schedule, there can be a picture or message or piece of paper from daddy to look at before going to bed or when getting up in the morning.

Being creative could also mean once a week you take a child out to breakfast on the way to school and work. It means having mom take a video of an event you have to miss and watching it with your child as soon as possible. It means taking a child to your office when you have to work on a weekend. It also means having pictures of you at your office so young children can be helped to visualize where daddy is.

The key point is recognizing that you can find creative ways to maximize your connection to each of your children, even when time is very limited. Just the fact that you are doing this will mean a lot to the children (and to your wife), increasingly so as they get older and understand more about what is happening. You must also realize that the strongest influence on your children will come not from criticisms, punishments, and lectures. Instead, it comes building the strongest connection you can and allowing your children to absorb an image of their father that is vivid and positive. They will integrate your values into their own unique personalities as a result of this bond and you will achieve not only the goal of preparing them for their future life, but you will be an important part of it as their friend. Which is one of life’s special rewards.

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Parents

Dealing With A Crying Child While Driving

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Even the calmest, most perfect child can turn into a crying scream machine in the car. A wet diaper, an uncomfortable seat belt, or the pangs of hunger or thirst can send any child into a crying fit that can test the patience of even the most subdued of parents. An angry or screaming child can also make the drive itself more dangerous as you become more distracted by the screams of your toddler. Bad moods are contagious. If you allow yourself to become angered by your child’s crying you may drive more offensively and be more prone to doing something stupid while behind the wheel. There is no simple or fool-proof way to avoid having your child cry while you are driving him or her around, but these simple ideas may make things less stressful and more safe for you and other motorists.

1.If it is obvious that your child is not going to calm down on his own find a place to pull over (if it is safe to do so) and check to see if there is a simple reason for the crying.

Did he spit out his pacifier, is his belt cutting into his shoulder, or does he have a wet diaper? NEVER try to take care of retrieving a pacifier or giving a cookie while you are driving. We have all tried it before and we all know that it is not a wise thing to do, especially in rush hour traffic.

2.For children that are old enough to understand a few basic words try using a de-escalation method such as counting down slowly and calmly from five to one while attempting to make occasional eye contact in the rear view mirror (if possible).

This de-escalation method works more effectively if you practice it at home as well. Any time your child is throwing a tantrum instead of immediately putting him in time-out try getting him to calm down by sitting down with him face to face, make eye contact, and do the slow, calming count down. If you can get him to calm down at home using this method he will eventually be able to calm himself down while in the car with your verbal help.

3.Use a sibling as a helper.

This isn’t an option in all cases of course, but if your crying child has an older sibling in the car consider placing their car seats close enough together that the older child can play with or otherwise distract the younger child for a few minutes until you reach your destination. Obviously, the older child should never be allowed to unbuckle his seat belt while the vehicle is moving.

4.Never allow your child’s crying to affect your driving or your attention to the road.

At the same time never allow your child’s crying to build your stress to the point that you yell at the child in a desperate (and futile) attempt to make him be quiet. A child that is too young to understand words will only be startled by your yelling and will likely cry even more. In addition to this yelling at your child can cause other psychological problems down the road. If you are nearing the end of your rope, pull over and find out what is wrong. Always calm yourself down before opening the door to check on your child.

There is never a perfect method to deal with the stress of a crying child, especially in a confined space. But consider these four simple tips and always stop and think before doing anything unsafe while driving a vehicle. Pulling over may slow you down or make you late, but driving faster or more erratically because of the distraction of a crying child can make you a danger to yourself and others while on the road.

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Children

Educational Activities For Young Children In The Kitchen With Parents

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The kitchen is the center of most family activity. Everyone wants to see what good things are cooking for dinner. The kitchen can also be a place of learning for your child.

Make your child your taste tester. Taste testing is an important job in a test kitchen. If the food doesn’t taste just right, then it is rejected as a good recipe. Let them taste each thing you make. Get them accustomed to the tastes of sweet, salty, sour, and tangy. If they are a good taste tester, they will learn to recognize when something tastes bad. This is the first step to becoming useful in the kitchen.

Show your kids how to cook their favorite meals. Kraft® Food and Family magazine offers a section with recipes just for kids. Teach kids how you prepare to start cooking in the kitchen. Start with something simple. Children can assemble the ingredients and the utensils that will be needed to make the recipe. Show them what to do once and then let them take over. It will be slow at first since it is something that they have never done, but kids are up for new things. You may have to help them if there is any use of the oven involved. The more they get a chance to cook, the more they will pick up from you.

The major task of the kitchen is stocking it with groceries. If the children can write, let them make out the grocery list for you. This process helps them with their spelling. After the list is completed, it’s time to head to the grocery store. As you call them out, let the kids look for the items that you need. They will think that it is a food scavenger hunt. Your trip may take twice as long when they are helping you but it will be worth it to teach them about food shopping.

Show kids how to use the appliances in the kitchen. See if they can guess what each thing does. Use each appliance to create a simple treat as you demonstrate. By the time you finish showing them how everything functions, they will have a lot of snacks to eat. For example, use the blender to make a tasty shake as you demonstrate how it works. Use the mixer to whip up some instant pudding. The toaster can brown a bagel that can be spread with cream cheese or preserves. Caramel dip can be softened in the microwave and used for apples which can be cut up using an apple slicer.

Start at a young age and teach children about the clean-up side of cooking. Once you make a meal, the dishes you used need to be washed and put away. This is a perfect time to show them the dishwasher. Using the dishwasher is good for young children who aren’t tall enough to wash the dishes in the sink. Let them load all of the dishes in and start it up. When the cycle is finished, show them how to empty it.

Now that they know the basics, it’s time for the kids to create recipes of their own. Make sure that they use the proper measurement amounts for liquid and solid ingredients. Look over their recipes when they finish writing them to see that nothing is left out. As a bonus, let them show you how to create their recipes. Give them the apron and chef’s hat to make it official that they are in charge of the kitchen.

Everyone needs to learn to be self-sufficient in the kitchen. If your kids learn early, they will be helping you for a long time. The kitchen will become their favorite room in the house once they learn the ins and outs.

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Parents

Top Five Tips To Reduce Mom Stress

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What is exactly is mom stress, and why does it differ from other types of stress one may encounter? It could well be described as the loss of ability to cope with the repetitive routine and mundane course of daily child rearing for a specifically isolated period of time. Most moms will suffer at least some form of mom stress before their children are grown. Moms may feel as if they can no longer handle the fighting, the crying, the tantrums and overall lack of adult interaction. Moms should not feel ashamed for identifying with any of the above, this just means they could use a simple change in your daily routine.

Here are five easy to implement ways to avoid mom stress. Take heed, that all five of these involve taking time for yourself each and every day. Your special time could be something as simple as giving yourself a soothing foot soak first thing in the morning before the children and husband are awake. Gather your favorite foot spa products and relax. You can find many great spa products made specifically for new moms such as the Earth Mama Angel Baby specialty line of products. Be sure to post a do not disturb sign on the door and strictly prosecute anyone that dares to enter!

Your special time should also include some form of slow paced exercise such as early morning stretching or a 30 minute relaxation video. The slow yet invigorating pace of the exercise will begin to release your feel good hormones thus lending a more relaxed tone to the rest of the day.

What type of things did you enjoy before you became a mother? Your special time should encompass some sort of creative activity to remind you of your personal interests. If you enjoy photography why not start a scrapbook where you can catalog your photos as well as do some creative journaling? This would be a good time to do some positive thinking about your children by showcasing the special qualities of each child in the scrapbook.

Remember your long lost friends? Your special time should contain at least some kind of daily interaction with another adult beside your spouse. Make arrangements for a play date with another mom and have coffee while your
children play. Be sure to keep your diaper bag stuffed with items your children may need so they do not interupt your friendly conversation. Thinking ahead can make your visit much more enjoyable. Keep the conversation positive! Don’t spoil your “You Time” by discussing negative subjects that will probably leave you feeling emotionally drained.

Finally, the most important step before beginning your new routine is to get your husband on board. You will need his support to make sure you are not disturbed while taking time for yourself. Surprisingly, most husbands would like to see their wives relax a little more and are willing to help make that happen.

You shouldn’t feel that you have to keep a strict “You Time” schedule. Keep it relaxed by spreading your activities out through the week. One special “You Time” activity a day should be enough to put you in the right frame of mind.

Taking time for yourself should not be viewed as a selfish endeavor. This will only leave you feeling more refreshed and ready to be a better parent and wife. We all need that little something to look forward to each day and this can only help us to enjoy life with our family all the more.

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