From Dr. Jane's Notebook

The Creative Parent

Families and family life have changed considerably over the past three decades. Changes in the economy, women working outside the home, divorce and remarriage, and other society-wide developments require that families find new ways to adapt to change and maintain open lines of communication. I've recently become very impressed by creative solutions I've heard and thought I'd share a few of these ideas with you.

By sending each other e-mail messages, they can easily relay information about school, illness, problems, and visitation plans. This mode of communication eliminates hostile exchanges, preserves information on disk so that the accuracy of communication can be enhanced, and eliminates trying to reach each other by telephone (a prime opportunity for interpersonal nastiness). If by chance an angry thought is expressed while writing the message, it can also be erased before sending the message along.

One mother recently told me that her child's teacher has her pager number and knows how to call if her child is sick, or any other problems come up at school. Other families set up codes that can be called into the pager that identify numerically which child is calling to let Mom know that they are safely home from school. Some codes indicate the need for a call back; others simply relay messages that put their parents' minds at ease. Receiving too many phone calls from children at work often raises the eyebrows of bosses, and many working parents do not have easy access to telephones on the job. This is one discrete way to be in touch with your children and be notified if they need you.

My goal is for my teenager to call and let me know where she is and that she's okay. When she calls, we agree on an appropriate curfew based upon the activities in which she's involved. Provided she is in a safe place with others and that she has remembered to call in, I am happy to be flexible. In this way, she gets rewarded for calling home, I get the phone call that relieves my worries, and we agree on a curfew which is appropriate for the evening. When teens call home and ask for special privileges (such as staying out later), try to say 'yes' instead of 'no'. If a call home starts an argument, the teen will sooner or later stop calling home.

Some people say that being a parent is more difficult these days. Personally, I think that parenting was probably always difficult. Some people say that the rules used to be more clear. I think the rules may have been more rigid at one time, but we certainly all have to live by rules. Very often the problem lies in trying to raise kids by rules that applied to another generation; this usually doesn't work.

Today we have better tools with which to function and communicate. Technology improves how we work, and it can also improve how we parent. In order to solve today's parenting problems, it helps to become more creative and find modern solutions to those problems.

ęCopyright, 1996, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.