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Providing Security in an Insecure World

No matter what their ages, our children need to be reassured about the future. By Diane Chambers

Recent tragic events have caused me to reflect on the importance of nurturing our next generation, to foster a sense of strength, faith, patriotism, and humanity in their lives. Especially in homes where security already runs thin, our children are left to wonder where and to whom they can turn for assurance about the future. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. But as I speak to parents-especially those who are parenting alone-I tell them that this is the time to get physical, in a loving and caring way, with their children. No matter what their ages, kids need to be touched and held with reassuring arms. And there are no better arms than yours.

There are several steps you can take to help your child feel secure and to make your home a place of retreat. Whether you are divorced, widowed, or never married, your children look to you as their rock. Here's what you can do for them:

1. Make sure you have a support system of your own. It's difficult to give support to someone else, especially in the unconditional way parents must give it, if you are starving for some support yourself. At least once a week, talk privately with a mentor in your life (parent, sibling, friend, neighbor, older adult) about recent events or your personal concerns, and process how you feel about them. When you get your own feelings worked out, you will be in a better position to talk with your children about them.

2. Make spending time with your kids a priority. Say "no" to the Tupperware party your friend is having or the invitation to volunteer for something you don't really want to do. Instead, plan time with the kids after work and school. Volunteering is great, but make it a family affair. If your kids are involved in their own extra-curricular activities, be there to support them. Most importantly, be there when they wake up in the morning, and spend time with them before they go to sleep at night.

3. Minimize conflict in your life. It's a good time to call a truce with your ex-partner, for instance. By the same token, try not to bring any conflicts at work home with you. If there are problems at work, talk about them with a friend or colleague, but don't burden your kids with the extra baggage. Also, choose your battles at home. Try your best to discipline your children with calmness and love during this sensitive time.

4. Volunteer, as a family, in your community. Children respond to the positive feelings they get when doing something that genuinely makes a difference in someone's life. Spend a Saturday feeding the homeless at a local shelter, or join a community drive to raise money for terrorist victims' families. Watch your local newspaper for ways to help. Turning the pain we all feel into something positive always makes sense. The lessons your kids will learn from this, and the respect they will have for your compassion, will come back to you tenfold.

5. Surround your children with adults who love them. As a single parent, you cannot possibly be everything your kids need all the time. If you have good relationships with adult friends and relatives, make it a point to have them be around your children a little more. Talk to them about being the "secondary huggers" in your kids' lives. The more supportive and loving adults your children know, the more secure they are bound to feel.

Diane Chambers is a divorce mediator in Atlanta, and the author of Solo Parenting: Raising Strong and Happy Families.

Copyright 2001 Adoptive Families magazine.  Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 

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