Ease the transition from SAHM to working mom, divvying up holiday hosting duties, and more.
QAfter years at home, I’ve gone back to work, and my tween gets pissed when I can’t drive her to see friends on days I’m in the office. How do I help her get more comfortable with the changes?
AWith her growing social to-do list, it’s easy for a tween to overlook your demanding schedule. And each “no” you give can deepen the rift created whenever there’s a major change in an adolescent’s life (not your fault— everything’s a big deal when you’re 12). So instead of declining every request for a ride because of work, Karen Petty, chair of family sciences at Texas Women’s University, in Denton, TX, suggests focusing on when you can say yes.
“Make an availability chart, or map out the week that includes a discussion of when you can take her and when you cannot,” she recommends. A visual shows her you’re making her priorities your priority. Plus, “tweens like predictability and knowing when their needs and wants will be met. There’s comfort in knowing you will be true to your word, and the chart is a constant reminder that they matter.”
But a chart can’t change when musical rehearsal ends, and sometimes you’ll have to rely on other parents to pick up and drop off. Of course, you can “befriend your child’s friends’ parents who have more-flexible weekday schedules and reciprocate with weekend driving,” says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., author of Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends.
Even though your tween might give you flak for the arrangement, Dr. Kennedy-Moore says don’t sweat it; giving in to the guilt trip makes matters worse for both you and your child. “Supporting your child’s friendships is an important part of being a good parent, but it doesn’t require being an on-demand chauffeur,” explains Dr. Kennedy-Moore. “If you communicate that you feel guilty for ‘not being there’ to drive, you send a dangerous message that he or she is permanently damaged from missing out on that spontaneous Tuesday-afternoon get-together. There’s more than one way to be there for our kids.”
QI want my school-age children to know what’s going on in the world, but I’m worried that social-media news posts might mislead or upset them. How can they learn safely online?
AAccording to Petty, the first step to introducing your kids to world events is to stay up to date on what they’re watching and listening to. Instead of immediately flipping to your favorite news channel or website when you get home, ask your kids what they’d like to check out. “Watch at a close distance without commentary, but be open for possible questions and dialogue,” she says.
When it comes to frightening events, Petty says to focus on how people are trying to help during the tragedy. She uses the example of a devastating tornado. “Talk about the cleanup progress,” for instance, “or how strong the winds during a tornado can become. That restarts the conversation about safety during natural disasters every time.”
But remember: Your reaction to the news often influences how your kids will react. “When your child sees you’re not being honest about how you feel, it makes them even more scared,” says Carole Lieberman M.D., media psychiatrist and author of LIONS and TIGERS and TERRORISTS, Oh My! How to Protect Your Child in a Time of Terror. “We all wish we could provide our kids with a world made up of puppies and rainbows, but that isn’t today’s reality.” So don’t hold in your true feelings and opinions, but leave room for plenty of discussion.
Even once your family is expert at confronting tragic events, there’s still fake news to consider. How do you keep your kids from reading or hearing inaccurate info?
Ana Homayoun, social-media expert and author of Social Media Wellness: Helping Teens and Tweens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World, says to work on your kids’ patience and critical-thinking skills so they can better evaluate whether a news source is trustworthy.
“Patience means taking the time to read through articles rather than immediately establishing [ headlines] as fact, and clicking through to learn more about the author,” she says. Reading sites’ About Us pages can also be useful. Teach your child how to “identify whether the author has an objective or subjective point of view … and the author’s intent for writing the work.” A Google search might reveal the writer’s motivations, like ties to organizations and political parties.
One shortcut: “Help kids come up with their top 10 news sources to filter for reputable information,” Homayoun adds. Then they can do less legwork when they come across news from those vetted sources.
QMy mother is too sick to host Thanksgiving this year, and I’m too busy to swing it. Can I politely ask my sister, a stay-athome mom, to host?
AEven though your sister seems like the obvious holiday host, “don’t make any assumptions on how busy your SAHM sister might or might not be,” says Lori K. Long, Ph.D., business professor at Baldwin Wallace University, in Berea, OH, and author of The Parent’s Guide to Family-Friendly Work. “While she might not understand your schedule, you might not understand the additional responsibilities she has taken on while at home.”
Approach her the way you would a colleague with a work problem. “Start with making sure you agree on the challenge,” Dr. Long recommends. “With your mother ill, you both most likely want to enjoy a stress-free Thanksgiving during which your families can spend time with your mother.” You know it’d be stressful for you to host, but you might not know what in particular stresses out your sister. “Perhaps it’s the financial burden of providing the meal. Or maybe she feels the same way as you do about hosting in her home,” says Dr. Long.
Once you have this open, honest conversation, brainstorm a solution. “Maybe she wouldn’t mind hosting at her home if you help out with the food. Or maybe you agree that finding a caterer would be best. By working together, you are likely to come up with a creative alternative where neither of you is stressed.”
Even if you can’t drive her, you can still have her back.
You can’t assume they’re visiting your favorite news sites.