Monday, August 10, 2009

Long Distance Parenting

Raising kids from a distance is a real challenge. Parents who are in the sales and marketing as well as business people and diplomats who travel a lot and most especially overseas workers everywhere in the world are faced with this challenge. In a research conducted in the Philippines on the effect of parent's leaving their children to work abroad, it was found out that many children grow up misguided and confused. For example, many kids think that material things sent to them by an overseas working parent is the only expression of a parent's love. It was also shown that a big number of children whose either or both parents work abroad do not know how to save money and use their time wisely, do not do well at school and in most cases, they are problem kids. Here are some tips to raise children via long distance:

1. Set a bonding time with your kids away from home.
Like what I've seen from the movie, a mom set a bonding time with her daughter when both mother and daughter have to pause for a while every 3:00 PM to think of each other. Even when the mom passed away, the girl continues to do it. With the advanced technology nowadays, we can now keep in touch conveniently and efficiently away from home through mobile phones and the Internet. The time I and my husband set with our two kids in their early teens studying in our country while we're working overseas is every afternoon from their school and from our work. It's a good time we ask both of them how their day was. In that way, they can relate to us what made them happy, sad, upset, excited or any emotions that they need to express. With this done at a regular basis, they won't have pent up emotions that may turn into indifference or even rebellion. Aside from the regular time we set, we also send them SMS any time of the day assuring them how we love and miss them, giving them inspirational quotes or sometimes simply sending jokes to make their day. We also see to it that we set a weekly chat which is a guarded time exclusively for both of them. Sometimes, we make it fun by having a trivia question and answer and even teasing each other just like when we have our family time together at home.

2. Remember their special days or events.
During my first two years abroad, I saw to it that I had to go home for my son's and daughter's birthday or even on their annual piano recital no matter how it cost. Otherwise, we have to let them visit us in our workplace to celebrate their birthday. In their developmental years, it is necessary that we have to develop their self-confidence.When my daughter has a singing appointment or my son has to perform with the choir or the string ensemble, I and my husband have to affirm that they can do it well.

3. Support them actively in their studies.
During exams, we have to always remind them to perform excellently and challenge them to get high or perfect scores. We also instruct them especially our boy who is still very playful not to watch TV or play during examination period. Then at the end of their exams, they report to us how they perform. If they don't get a perfect or high score, we don't blame them. Instead we encourage them to do their best all the more next time. We also allow them to ask us any time of the day about their homework. By doing such, they may not envy their friends and classmates whose parents are just around them.

4. Spend quality time and build memories when you are together.
Since our kids were born, we have family time together. Instead of doing passive activities such as watching videos or playing video or computer games, we take them out to see nature. We all have enjoyed going to the beach, to the farm and to game-fishing together at least once a month. So when we're away from them, they really miss the moments we share together and they always long for our reunion. When the kids are with us in Bangkok every summer, we take them to new places they haven't been to so they have painted a happy family enjoying each other and doing adventures in life that will remain in their memories. We also do gimmicks and household chores together such as trying out a new recipe where they are the ones preparing the ingredients and cooking. So even if you don't see your kids very often as it will be the case in the future when they are already on their own, the quality time you have spent with them while they are young will last forever.

5. Do not pamper your children with material things.
Many parents play guilt-trip for being away from their kids. To make up for their absence, they buy or send them expensive toys, clothes, gadgets such as cellphones, video players or even computers even for the very young ones who may not need them yet so they are free to do whatever they want as no mature people may supervise or control them. Or even if there's someone supervising them if they don't want to be controlled, they can do whatever they want. This is the common trend we see in our country where overseas workers' children growing not only addicted to computer games but also becoming irresponsible individuals who do not know the value of hard-earned money. Some parents pride themselves by how their kids are adorned with the material things they provide not realizing the adverse effects of such pampering which may even lead them to become nuisance of the society. If overseas working parents have nothing more to give, they may turn rebellious or even criminals by stealing just to satisfy their need for that's the way they were brought up. Remember that material thing is not equal to love and attention. Keeping this philosophy in mind, we do not buy our children their own computer until this time unless we are sure they have control over their desire to play games without limits, visit websites for adults and just chat with friends. Instead of filling them with non-essential things, give them something worthwhile. This leads to the final tip.

6. Invest for their future by developing their talents.
As children especially young ones need their parents' attention, they may not completely achieve it while their parents are so far away. But instead of giving them PCP or computer where they spend most of their time playing games at a very young age making them idle and sometimes obese, why not let them learn to play musical instruments such as piano, violin, guitar, flute, etc.? Or you can have them sign up for a voice lesson, martial arts, swimming or dance class even if it requires a big share of our budget so that they can develop their talents and potentials. All these kinds of activities will develop their character as they learn discipline, patience, value of time, money and effort. These will occupy much of their time after school that they may forget about hanging out with bad friends who may influence them to try smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs . Most importantly, they may use these talents not only to entertain their family and other people but also to generate income from teaching or performing in the future. In this way, they become confident, productive and independent individuals.


gleenn said...

wow, this is such a great post. :)

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