"Dinnertime is often the only opportunity for
the whole family to be together and feel as a real sense of connection."
says William J. Doherty,Ph.D. Without frequent reinforcement, that connection
can be lost, and kids start to feel isolated.
Make the meal special-turn off the TV,light some
candles,and do not start until veryone is present.If your teenager is on
the phone and you begin without her/him,you have communicated that she
is not important enough to wait for. Likewise,everyone should stick around
until the last family member is finished,so that dinner is a family event,rather
than a rushed experience.
If conflicting schedules make family dinners impossible,get
creative.One woman,whose husband consistently works late,packs up a picnic
and her three kids and takes the family dinner to him a few nights each
week. If there is no way to do dinner,breakfast every Saturday morningat
the pancake house is a good alternative.Whatever works your family is fine,as
long as it is a ritual they can count on.
Reading together promotes a lifelong love of books.
And it is crucial during the summer,when kids tend to turn into mental
couch potatoes. "Kids generally lose between one and three months of learning
during summer vacation," says Harris Cooper, Ph.D. "But parents can easily
Experts agree that parents should try to read
nightly to young children and continue even after children can read on
their own for older kids, create your own summer reading program. Put your
child on a one-book-a-week schedule.Take her/him to the library and help
her choose a book on her favorite subject.Then make sure you read it,too,so
you can discuss it together at the end of the week.
Free reading programs at public libraries and
schools are notoriously underused. Find out what is available in your community.And
do not forget to let your child see how much you enjoy reading for pleasure.
READING TO-OR WITH-YOUR CHILD
Watching TV together can actually open the door
to talking about difficult but crucial subjects with your kids.
"Whether your children are preschoolers or teenagers,find
programs you can watch together" says Dr. Milton Chen. When you see something
you consider inappropriate, initiate a discussion.
WATCHING TELEVISION TOGETHER
Ask your child, "What did you think about what
you saw in that show?". It could lead to an important conversation.
Create a balanced TV diet for your family. Look
for shows with nutritious content,and positive messages and role models.
It may be all right to have a TV dessert-a program watched for entertainment
alone- but it should come after the main course.
Listening to your kids communicates, in the most
forceful way possible,that you value what they say and you are interested
in who they are as a people.New research also shows that the number one
way to prevent high risk behavior in teens is to have the kind of relationship
where they feel can talk openly with you.
Resist the impulse to lecture. If you solve all
your kidsí problems for them,they will never learn to think for themselves.Instead,ask
your children questions that will encourage them to come up with their
A great way to ensure communication and build
family solidarity is to set up a weekly family meeting time.You can use
it with kids as young as two to discuss family rules,plan activities together
for the coming week,and discuss long-range family plans,such as where to
go to vacation.
All kids think they want to be in charge,but deep
down they really donít. A child without enough discipline worries, "If
I am calling the shots, then who is going to to take care of me?"
AN EAR TO LISTEN TO YOUR KIDSí IDEAS
There are hundreds of angry,out-of-control
kids, from toddlers to teens.But the moment parents take charge with firm,loving
limits,things start getting better.
Experts believe that many parents unintentionally
are too permissive. Parents need to know it is not only OK to sometimes
say no to their kids,it is necessary for their healthy development.
When you give in to whining or a tantrum,you
are sending your child a message: "Make a big enough fuss and youíll get
what you want." If your child is complaining about setting the table and
you respond,he will argue for hours. Instead,try ignoring him.Soon,you
may be surprised to hear him grouse, "OK, Iíll do the silverware."Then
if you respond positively by simply thanking him,youílll probably be rewarded
with "OK,Iíll do the napkins and plates"
It is never too late to learn better ways of disciplining
your child,and a parenting education program is a good place to start.
If you always paint a picture of the world as
a cold and a cruel place,children start to lose their natural optimism
about life.Kids need to feel good about the world in order to feel good
about their own future in it.
Help children understand that while there are
some very real dangers,the vast majority of life is not a victimizing experince.Of
course,if your child is worried about being pressured into trying drugs
or sex,you want him to feel free to express that.Ask him what he thinks
he could do to avoid falling into that trap.That way he feels empowered
to take action instead of being helpless victim.
The mayhem and murders that fill news reports
are just a small percentage of everything that happens each day,but your
child may not realize that. Whatever you talk with your child,try to be
more positive than negative. Let him know you are optimistic about life,and
he should be,too.
AN OPTIMISTIC VIEW OF THE WORLD