Parenting Advice

    Keeping Kids Grounded

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    1602_ParentalGuidance_QMy fifth-grade daughter is in with a new group of girls at her school. A few of these families have two homes. One of the mothers has asked me if my child can go with them on an expensive ski trip this winter – something we can’t afford and would never do for our family. My daughter has started asking questions about our house, why her dad and I both have to work and if we can get a different car. I don’t want to sound resentful. I am just trying to be honest and help my daughter see that she is really blessed. I need some guidance.

    1602_ParentalGuidance_ABelieve me when I say, you do not sound resentful. I think at some point, we all have that realization that there will always be someone prettier, wealthier, smarter, more talented, or just plain luckier than we are. It is the moment when we begin to come to terms with the fact that life is not always fair.

    This realization can come in many forms and in some people causes resentment, while others find it motivating. Either way, it is a concept to be worked through over time, and one that the majority of children and families will experience. It sounds as if your daughter has come to this realization and is beginning to question how it affects her life.

    You mention that “she is really blessed.” It is always tempting to lecture a child by pointing out all of the good things she has in her life and how lucky she is as many have far less. I’m afraid that these lectures fall on deaf ears when dealing with a fifth-grade child.

    I would ask the friend’s mother if there might be another opportunity at a later date. If that is a possibility, I would let your daughter know that as much as you would like to see her go, the expense of a ski trip is not in your budget. Would it be possible for her to earn the money or part of the money to go at a later date? She might do some babysitting (sitters get paid quite well these days) or yard work in the neighborhood to earn extra money. Perhaps you could come up with the rest as part of a birthday or holiday gift. This approach would empower your daughter to work for what she wants. If this is not possible, and the answer has to simply be “no,” as happens in life, try not to feel guilty or spend too much time explaining. Do empathize with her disappointment, but withhold the lectures. Just let her know that it is simply not in your family’s budget.

    The best way I know to help your daughter appreciate all she does have is to encourage her to get involved in community service. Children at this age learn best by doing. When she sees others with far less, she will hopefully come to see her glass as half full. When adults are asked to rate their overall satisfaction with life, those who rate themselves as highly satisfied also rate high in a sense of gratitude. I feel very strongly that community service should be practiced in our families from the time children are very young. This works best when it involves not just giving money to a cause, but participating in an activity to support that cause. One doesn’t have to look too far to find worthy causes in our community. CARITAS and FeedMore are just a couple that come to mind. There are many opportunities during the holidays especially. I would discuss your options as a family, and then get involved on a regular basis. It will bring your family closer, as well as teach your children some important life lessons.

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    Susan Brown
    Susan Brown holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology, as well as degrees in early childhood education and psychology. A mother, teacher, children’s book author, and nationally known family educator, she works with clients at Everyday Parenting Solutions.