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New Year’s Resolutions for ParentsDr. Roger McIntire

New Year’s resolutions, even short-lived ones, can help parents rearrange their priorities for the better. Some of us wish we had spent more time with the kids and we could resolve to try harder this year to protect our children’s health and well-being and to help them with their problems.

One mother wrote me saying her family criticized her for not taking advantage of a free eye exam at her school. A glance would tell any adult that the child had “lazy eye” and needed help. But Mom said, “Work is so busy right now, and the free clinic time is during the only free time I have.”

Lazy eye (medical term, Amblyopia) develops in 120,000 American children each year. Refractive Amblyopia is usually not detectable from appearance. One eye does not have the same focal length as a normal eye and the image from that eye is blurred. The brain learns to  ignore the image from that eye unless corrective lenses are worn. The condition can also occur from misalignment of the eyes, which is easily visible to others. Ignoring lazy eye can lead to blindness in that eye.

Another mom complained that her husband refused to take her second grader to his dental appointment when she could not. He said if the appointment ran late, he would miss his poker night. That would be a shame, but half of all third graders develop tooth decay, and 86 percent of 17-year-olds have tooth decay problems.

Time to get the priorities in order.

You might think that these parents need a New Year’s resolution to protect the health of their children. Of course that’s right, but another good reason is just as important. It is the example of concern for others set before the kids who could be destined to repeat their parents’ attitudes when they become parents themselves.

Teeth need to be fixed and eye problems corrected, but children also need to learn how to be parents. Where did poker-night Dad and too-busy Mom learn their attitudes about childrearing responsibilities? What do they teach and pass along to their children?

Now would be a good time to resolve to set a good example about caring for others, including the children. I have no delusions about how durable such a resolution would be, yet merely writing down such a resolution for the year may improve the presentattitudes and set a better example for the next generation.

Grammas and grandpas have a special role in these problems. Their example in the past may not always have been perfect, but they can help now. Offering unsolicited advice, “You should have made the dentist appointment a long time ago,” may not be welcomed but stepping in with an offer to help, “Let me take him over for his appointment,” eases the parenting burden and presents the example Mom and Dad might follow in the future.

Parents often think they need to watch their language because the kids may copy it. But the most important aspects of imitation are social attitudes and style. The kids may not always listen to you, but they are always taking in what you do and how you relate to others.

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