Do you have a child, or do you RAISE one?

childpicParenting has two parts. The two parts are two different things. There’s the first part of parenting; the act of ‘becoming’ a parent, where you actually created a child, the child was born, and now you are either a Mother or Father in name only. The second part of parenting, the more committed part, is where parenting isn’t about the simpleness of claiming the title of such a privilege, but the act of loving and caring for the child day in and day out. Even a parent who doesn’t live with their child should know and understand that an emotionally connected parent is the one engaged in their child’s life enough to promote the child earning respect for them. An absent parent = absent respect. A child learns more about their parent’s values by being around the parent.  A parent who is actively engaged in their child’s life, learns about their child’s intentions, and is in a position to guide, support, and mentor the child with the end goal being raising and developing a responsible, kind, confident, and stable adult that strives to succeed in life to their fullest potential. The responsibility for this development shouldn’t be left to only one parent; but all too often, it unfortunately is. Some divorced parents use the excuse that their child never calls them, or reaches out to them. It is not the responsibility of a child (a young, sensitive, undeveloped mind, with an undeveloped level of people skills and maturity) to reach out to a parent; quite the contrary. It is the responsibility of each parent, regardless of a living situation, to reach out to their child, on a regular basis to create and build a strong relationship. It is not the child’s responsibility to be the only initiator for staying in contact or to plan to spend time together.

According to Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2009, a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau every two years (and most recently in December 2011), there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 22 million children.

Single parenting doesn’t always mean that only one parent is raising a child. Many cases of divorced or unmarried parents are co-parenting together, meaning that they both share in the responsibility of teaching, mentoring, disciplining, supporting, encouraging, and paying for the child’s needs. Some of the co-parenting arrangements still involve one parent paying support to the primary custodial parent, while some parents choose to have no child support, but split the child’s costs. There are some children who actually live in two homes; they split their time between both parent’s houses. There are judges in the US that are beginning to award the child support be directly deposited into a child’s bank account, versus being paid directly to the primary custodial parents account when a child is a certain age, and the parent’s income is substantial for this scenario to be beneficial for the child (usually a teenager). But, while money is necessary for raising a child, emotional connections from BOTH parents are more important. If a child grows up feeling loved and supported by both parents, it creates strong trust in their own relationships. A child may not remember the tennis shoes a parent bought them on their 9th birthday, but they will definitely remember if one parent didn’t come to their party to celebrate. A child may not be affected by who pays for their car insurance while they are in high school or college; but you can be rest assured, they will remember if their parent supported them by spending time with them teaching them how to drive. A child may not recall how parents split the cost or didn’t share in paying for braces, but they will surely remember who dives them to their monthly appointments and takes them to the drug store for the supplies, and talks with them about dental care, and idea’s to implement for relieving pain. In all of these common scenarios, it is ‘time’, ‘attention’, and ‘helpfulness’ to a child that instills a strong relationship between a parent and a child.

There is a saying that has been posted about parenting that hits a home run in my opinion, on conveying the difficult task of preparing a child for their future. This quote sums up almost all of what a parents job really is, beyond making a child feel loved, of course.

theroad~Our job as parents is to prepare our children for the road…

not prepare the road for our children.~

It is a difficult task to be in the constant care of a child which involves maintaining organization, scheduling, food preparation, medical attention, discipline, schooling issues, social intervention, teaching, mentoring, hygiene, extracurricular activities, and spiritual guidance. If only one parent is handling these tasks, it means that a child is only getting influenced by that one parent’s perspectives. Even if two people are no longer living together as parents, the child still deserves to know and be encouraged about all of their life’s many twists and turns from both parents.

In many cases, a parent who is ‘not’ the primary custodial parent (the parent the child lives with full-time) feels that sending a child support check, and calling occasionally, is being a parent. News Flash!! Money isn’t what a child needs emotionally. Money is not where a child learns kindness, or patience, or how to talk to an adult with respect. Money doesn’t instill confidence, nor does it reinforce certain values and principles that often get pushed aside because parents are too busy. Values, like loving your neighbor as you love yourself; or the golden rule, treating others the way you would want to be treated are reinforced when a child has both parents guiding them on a regular basis. And if only one parent is trying desperately to persuade a child towards loving and honoring God, but another parent doesn’t engage in the child’s life enough to demonstrate their spiritual walk, how will a child learn the importance of the most important relationship in all of life, connecting to their heavenly Father? And here’s an amazing point: How will a child learn- that maybe, the primary parents perspective may be a little ‘off’ if they don’t have a differing perspective from their own blood-line to compare it to?

Too many non-custodial parents are viewing their young child’s life as they would a friend; they believe the relationship is a 50/50 exchange. If the 50/50 exchange was what marriage counted on; everyone would be divorced. If the 50/50 belief (you give this relationship 50%, and I’ll give this relationship 50%) were what all friendships counted on, there would be far fewer friendships in this world! The truth is, young children didn’t ask to be part of split families. They did not ‘choose’ to have both parents living in two different places. They are not thinking of their family relationships as something they have to invest in. Children and teens are naturally focused on themselves. All children are consumed with playing, school, friendships, and extracurricular (sports, gaming, clubs, social media, etc) It isn’t psychologically in a child’s mind to think like an adult with a thought that might be like this: “Oh yeah, haven’t made plans with Grandma & Grandpa in a while, I should call them and get on their calendar.”…..

The most important thing a parent can ever do for their child, (regardless of ANY living arrangement, regardless of geographical locations, regardless of income, regardless of the support payments or non-payments, regardless of any issue between the non-married parental figures) is to show love, show up, show support, show encouragement, show that you are engaged in their life, show that you’re interested in their life by being there with them. Show them you will be there IN PERSON to guide them along their journey as they develop their own values, their own passions.

~Our children are learning how to be the future parents by our actions; which will be developing our grandchildren.~

In the case of Parental Alienation…

Wikipedia: Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a term coined by child psychiatrist Richard Gardner, and introduced in his 1985 paper,[1] to describe a suite of distinctive behaviors he argued were shown by children who have been psychologically manipulated into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members – typically, by the other parent and during child custody disputes.[1][2]

…it is VITAL divorcing parents research the after-effects of this tragedy) the targeted, alienated parent must continue to pray, reach out with love, and be patient, allowing God to embrace the children with truth and the courage around the child to reunite with the lost parent. In no way, should a parent lose hope, or be angry; children can not be held responsible for estranging themselves, when they were led (either passively or deliberately) to shun a parent in their life; especially when no abuse, neglect, nor abandonment was present.

Parents shouldn’t just be a distant figure the child hears from every now and then; a real parent shows up LIVE, and IN PERSON, next to their child on a regular basis, talking to them, looking them in the eye, spending quality TIME with them, demonstrating their perspectives about life.  An engaged parent is the one a child can depend on in happy times of celebration and in sad times of defeat. Our children need both parents. Children don’t deserve to be deprived of the two people in their life that are the sole responsible parties for their development, the support, the encouragement, the love, and the installation of life’s important lessons. The most important life lesson being…..learning how YOU connect to God and how you live out YOUR life in Faith and not fear. Children learn what they see, not what they hear. 

For more relationship or parenting advice, follow this blog! Visit annalisaotoole.com for more info on Life Coaching. For ordering audio downloads, or to learn about an upcoming debuting PODCAST, The Ask Annalisa Show, available beginning June 1st: visit: www.askannalisa.com. 

 

 

 

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