03 Oct Partying Tips for Young Parents
LAY THE FOUNDATION
Parents have the privilege of forming the minds and hearts of their children and need to invest a lot of time in doing so, particularly in the young years. They lay foundations for their children by their love, availability, example, shared activity and values. The family is the first place where children learn habits of mind and action. Children learn firsthand the meaning and purpose of their lives through the witness of those surrounding them. How important family is! When the bonds are healthy and vibrant, children develop a deep emotional and psychological security in knowing they are loved for who they are, not what they do, own or accomplish. Five Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman is an eye-opening read on how we convey love. When children feel secure, parents can instill many great values in their children regarding family values, honor, identity and morals. The book Raising Good Children: From Birth Through the Teenage Years by Dr. Thomas Lickona gives many practical insights on how to do this. The family can exert a tremendous influence on directing their children to the good through the ordinary affairs of daily life.
A POSITIVE APPROACH
The young years are sponge years, where kids soak in the examples set before them. May those years be family years of fun together, hobbies explored, outings, gatherings, meals enjoyed, movies watched and memories made. Limit programs, technology and screen time. Maximize real time together doing many different things. Children need to have a good balance of work, play and time well spent. Take advantage of the many avenues for personal and family growth during this stage. Consider glancing at:
Wise parents are on the look out for great friends for their children, especially their extroverted children. They start from the top down – looking at adult friends who share their vision of what family and life are all about. They socialize with these families and create natural situations for their children to befriend each other. These friendships will underline and not undermine what’s happening in the home. It’s not a question of popularity, achievement, economic class or level of education. It is very much about character qualities and personal integrity. Surrounding your children with this environment helps them to assimilate traits, activities and friendships which will help them become their best selves. Certainly parents encourage their child to be friendly in the classroom, to play with everyone, to make friends, and get to know these friends. Smart parents focus a lot on family and are proactive in guiding good friendships to build over the years. Anyway as kids become more aware of the different situations of other children, it is good that parents acknowledge that yes we are different from them and we are very happy being different. We are not followers and we live how we see most beneficial to us. Others have other opinions on many things, but we have chosen to be who we are, and are proud we are different and quite happy. We do not apologize for who we are, nor do we keep compromising in order to fit in. We learn good manners, a friendly approach, and personal integrity. Unfortunately, when parents focus more on friends and the need to be popular, they are mistakenly giving those relationships a pronounced influence. They are diluting family impact in favor of peer pressure. Read more on this important subject in Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Matter by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Mate, as well as Bringing Up Geeks (Genuine, Enthusiastic, Empowered Kids): How to Protect Your Kid’s Childhood in a Grow-up-too-fast World by MaryBeth Hicks. Any books by Dr. Meg Meeker, Dr. Ray Guarendi or Dr. Michele Borba. All excellent on raising boys and girls.
Children need to experience the joy of living. They should regularly witness their parents having a great time with family and friends. Hosting parties in your home teaches hospitality, good planning, proper focus and healthy activities. Make your home a welcoming one, open to your friends and the friends of your children. Kids should see parents socializing, enjoying a drink, having a great time with guests, knowing how to make conversation, serving each other and being enriched by it all. Involve your children in the planning, enjoying and cleaning up. Start simple. Keep it simple, but do have a great time in your home with those you care most about. This home court advantage reaps many rewards.
In our home, birthday parties are a big deal, but usually with family only. We do make an effort to have people over. When the kids were young, we had an annual winter party, inviting families we knew for a potluck supper, skating and tobogganing, with up to 80 people. It certainly was crazy, busy, squishy and fun. Summer BBQ’s, anniversary parties, your 30th, 40th, 50th birthday are all occasions for your kids to witness a really good party, for all the right reasons, celebrated in a great way. Having friends over for a movie night, games’ night or dinner are simple pleasures too. All these moments set a reference point for the years to come. Children see their parents as people who enjoy fun and have good criteria in achieving it.
THINK ABOUT IT
Many parents don’t take the time to examine what their actions are reflecting and where they might be headed. We can think about these questions in a general way, or focus more on how we celebrate parties. Am I trying to impress anyone? What’s my aim for my child? What’s the purpose of this occasion? Keeping them busy, happy and out of my hair? Wanting them in the in-crowd? Needing them to be popular and not lonely? Wanting to keep up with everyone else? Or to celebrate how important they are to our family? Are we quick to cave into pressure from our kids to do what everyone else is doing? Is it all about the material? Is there anything deeper I want to convey? Do I achieve that simply, or do I allow myself to make things much more complicated? Am I age appropriate in my choices for them? Do I push them into the next stage prematurely—whether for clothing styles, music, makeup, digital technology, video games, TV programs, etc.? Or do I allow them to be children? Am I fine with being simple? Different? Or do I look for ways to engage them more? Do I worry a lot about what others think of me? Do I tend to go over the top in celebrating at any age? Do I quickly give in when my kids want things? Do I think of long term consequences? Am I fostering healthy values, good use of time, true friendship, inner qualities of goodness, truth, beauty? Is it about looking good? Or about being good? Are we feeding the cravings for thrill, bigger, and better? Or are we marking a moment in a natural age appropriate manner? Certainly points to ponder. These early years put into motion attitudes, approaches and values that will greatly influence the future.
SET THE STAGE
As the tween years approach, build more ties that bind your kids to your family. Set up traditions, routines and customs that absorb their time and anchor them to you. Examples include house chores, kitchen chores, vacations, family trips, family movie nights, game nights, having friends over, visiting others, helping others, hanging out with family, friends and relatives. Let them begin to spread their wings with greater freedom to stay up a bit later than the others, take on tasks that are more challenging, become more responsible. Let them take a babysitting course, help a neighbor, be responsible for a pet, have a paper route, volunteer in the community, be part of a youth group. Broaden their horizons in a way that they have more freedom, but more responsibility. Create a momentum, a lifestyle and opportunities that develop their talents, experiences and identity. Making good use of time in such ways reduces boredom, idleness and desire for something else somewhere else. It also develops a strong definition of who I am, where I come from, and what’s important.
Speak often, regularly and naturally about the changes happening in your tween and adolescents – growth, hormones, physical changes, thinking, emotions, behavior etc. Prepare them for what is coming and let them know what they will experience, the ups and downs are natural and that you are there for them. Introduce, develop and expand upon topics of relations between boys and girls, proper use of internet, cellphones, Facebook, computers, parties etc. Form their character. Unfortunately too many provide the technology with no parameters, no supervision, no accountability, no clue. Children become sitting ducks for inappropriate and offensive behaviors occurring through mediums that promote impulsive behavior, rudeness, vulgarity, etc. Avoid providing these mediums as long as possible. Dare to be different. Your aim as a parent is not popularity; it is to protect your children from elements of a toxic culture. If you cannot supervise, then do not provide whatever it is.
Know your kids’ friends. Know their families. If your kids go to someone else’s house, don’t just drop them off. Go to the door, invite yourself in, introduce yourself, stay a while, ask questions about what will happen, who will be there and where will they be. Ask to see those places. Who cares if you look like an overprotective parent. Your kids are worth it. Protect their innocence. I have known friends who’ve dropped off children at homes where parents are drinking, where pornographic pictures are hung in the basement, where older males (teens brothers and their friends) are lurking nearby in a non-healthy fashion. Don’t be naive. Listen to your gut. If something feels off, excuse yourself and your tween and don’t worry what they will think. Give your kids a password. If they feel awkward about anything happening, tell them to call home because they have stomach problems. This password is your cue that something is up and they need to leave. Don’t ever make them feel bad for asking to leave. Don’t encourage them to toughen up, stick it out. Let your kids listen to their gut instincts and affirm them for being smart and savvy. A friend’s daughter went to a home for a birthday party as a tween and was totally uncomfortable when an R-rated movie was pulled out for all the kids to watch with the parents present. The mom was ecstatic that her daughter called home saying she felt sick and left. The mom never again allowed her daughter into that home.
Realize that if parents are providing alcohol to minors, they are breaking the law. Have your children know the law. Make them also aware that no one should touch them inappropriately, especially in their private areas. They need to say NO loudly and STOP. If the person continues they can be charged with sexual assault. Teach your kids to always stay in the public areas of the home they are visiting, such as the kitchen or living room. If they are worried, go and spend time in the bathroom, flushing the toilet often as if they are being sick with diarrhea. They should call home and leave right away. Give them an out. Let them know you will be there in a flash, no questions asked. Already in the tween years, they may be asked to parties, out for a date, or for sleepovers. Don’t be quick to permit. Have no problem saying NO. Many times your kids are relieved you are strict, so they can complain to their friends, they’d like to go, but mom won’t let me. Don’t worry if they make you appear a monster. Help your children save face.
When kids have few friends in the pre-teen years, it hurts them. Acknowledge that pain and meet their need to belong in other ways. Encourage them to volunteer at school with younger grades, in the library, in the office, to read a book at recess, to bring a deck of cards, to look for someone who is lonely, someone who is stuck indoors in a wheelchair needing companionship. Don’t push your kids to other kids, but do help them navigate, standing on their own two feet. Show confidence in them. Love them up. Strengthen their ties with good role models, as well as relatives and friends. Your unswerving love is key.