What happened to date nights? What ever happened to the good old days when parents would leave the babysitter a phone number when they were going out for the evening? If there was an “emergency,” and ONLY if their was an emergency, your babysitter would call to tell you. Nowadays, parents have their cell phones on them at all times and children have a way to reach them whenever the need arises.
Children’s “easy access” to parents is truly a double edged sword. On one hand, communication and availability to our children is very beneficial. However, all parents need to go out and decompress without having their children texting or calling them every five minutes.
Has our society created a generation that has difficulty coping because we are available 24 hours a day and just a phone call away? How will our children learn to figure anything out on their own if they call, text, or video chat us whenever something goes wrong?
As a mom of 3 kids 10, 8, and 5, all three of my children think nothing of calling or texting my husband and I the moment we are not with them. A complaint about a stomach ache, a boo boo, what time are we coming home from dinner, can they stay up late, a fight between siblings, what’s for dinner, who are we out with, and the list goes on.
Now I am all for my kids being able to reach me if they are sick or there is an emergency, but when all is fine and they just need instant gratification by having their question answered immediately, that is another story! The question is, when is the availability TOO much, and what can we do to make our children less dependent on us but remain comfortable at the same time?
Alone Time Is Crucial
It is so important for parents to be able to go out for the evening without feeling that they have to “keep in touch” with their children for the few hours that they are out enjoying some alone time. We all want our kids to feel as though we are always there for them, but it is our job as parents to raise independent children who learn how to figure things out on their own. Not all children have an easy time when their parents leave. Some kids may feel nervous with a new babysitter or just feel anxious without their parents around.
However, giving our children the coping skills they need to become more independent and learn to figure things out on their own is essential. Here are some helpful ideas for parents whose kids feel the need to contact them when they are out for the night:
1. Getting Ready
Your reservation is at 8? Have the babysitter come between 6 and 7 p.m. This gives kids plenty of time to acclimate and get comfortable with the babysitter. You can get ready in peace and by the time you leave they are much more relaxed.
2. Distract and Occupy
Pick an activity, movie, craft, or game, so your child is engrossed when you are out. Keep them busy so they aren’t bored and looking to call you because they need some attention.
3. The Boy That Cried Wolf
Have you told your kids the tale of “The Boy That Cried Wolf”? If not, it’s time! Explain to them that if they call you with a stomach ache every single time you go out for the night, you aren’t going to know when to believe them!
4. Write It Down
Many kids feel like they HAVE to tell you something when you are out. Have them write it down. Tell them you are interested in what they have to say, and that you will make time to speak with them when you get home or the next morning.
5. The Check In
Some kids need a check in with mom and dad. They may have more anxiety and need to know that they can speak with them one time if they really need to. That’s ok. Explain to your children that your phone is away for the first hour when you arrive at dinner. Let them know that you will be checking your phone at a specific time and that is when you can respond to them. If your children are younger, you can do a phone check in. Older children can text or email. Keep it brief and upbeat!
6. Don’t Feel Guilty
It is OK for parents to go out and enjoy time with adults! In fact going out for time alone will make you feel rejuvenated and more relaxed.
Today’s technology has enabled our children to crave instant gratification. It is our job as parents to try to encourage our children to be more patient. Setting boundaries for our children is so critical. It teaches them to cope, figure things out on their own, and will make them more independent individuals down the road.
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Stefanie Weiss, author of Ask Stefanie. Find them on Twitter @AskStefanie!
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