Q: I have been questioning myself over how I handled a situation with my 12- year-old daughter a few weeks ago.She came home from school very upset over having been left out of a sleepover party given by one of her friends. She was really distraught and emotional and it broke my heart to see her in such a state. I decided to call the mother of the girl who was having the sleepover. I explained how upset my daughter was and asked if they could possibly include one more child, my daughter, in the get-together. Later that evening my daughter received an email inviting her to the party. My daughter accepted. She attended the party, but when i asked if she had enjoyed herself, it didn’t sound like it was very fun. Did i do the right thing?
A: Oh, Mom – there is nothing more difficult than seeing your child in pain. Any parent’s first response is to want to fix things and make your child happy again. I remember many such moments as I was raising my son.But, I think, to jump in and fix things is not always in our child’s best interest.
First and foremost, you have to ask the question, Whose problem is this and does my child have the skills to solve this problem on her own? In this situation I think the answer is clear. This was your daughter’s problem and at the age of 12, she most likely has the skills to cope.
If you could take a do-over I would suggest the following. First, you need to empathize with your daughter. Let her know that you understand how hurt and disappointed she feels. Often, this is all that is required of a parent. When you jumped in and called the other mom, you sought to solve her problem – giving your daughter the message that you didn’t think she could cope with disappointment, or that she couldn’t figure out what to do to make things better.
As I always say, our job is to raise our children to no longer need us. The message you gave did nothing to encourage empowerment and independence. Children need to learn to manage uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings and know their world will not end. Instead, ask if there is anything you can do to support her. Who knows? She may have decided to have her own sleepover and needed your help to organize it. The point is, that the solution should come from her. What is key for me is the fact that you are asking important questions about your role as a parent and the importance of respecting boundaries.I believe this process will serve you well the next time you are faced with a similar dilemma. That’s why we call parenting the biggest job you will ever have.
Q: My son will turn five this summer and we always assumed he would start kindergarten in the fall. In talking to the parents of his preschool peers, it seems that most are holding their sons back a year. NOW i’m rethinking sending him this year. Any thoughts?
A: The issue of when children should begin their formal education has become a hot topic these days. Many parents believe that by sending their child later, they are improving their child’s chances for academic and or athletic success. Often an additional year of what we call junior kindergarten is seen as an option for those with summer birthdays.
When to send boys tends to be more of an issue than when to send girls, as typically girls tend to mature earlier and appear ready at five. When looking at school readiness there are many factors to consider. In addition to readiness skills like knowing numbers, letters, and colors, we look at fine motor skills, an area where girls also seem to take the lead in development.The ability to cut with scissors as well as being able to trace shapes is a good sign of fine motor readiness needed to have success in writing. You can find good lists for readiness online. In addition to these more obvious and easily measured factors, it is important to look at overall maturity. Can your child follow several directions with ease? Can he sit and focus for story time and is he able to show comprehension of what he has heard?Can he delay gratification, wait his turn, share with others, and adequately express his needs? All are signs of emotional maturity and can be just as important predictors of school readiness. If your child attends preschool, seek out his teacher’s opinion. These early childhood pros know your child and should have a fairly unbiased view of his readiness.I would like to caution you about the trap of listening too much to what other parents are saying. It’s better to trust your instincts and the opinions of professionals who know and work with your child. For me, a parent would need a reason to hold a child back beyond going with the trend.Avoiding following this kind of buzz will serve you well as you make this and many more decisions regarding your child’s best interest in the years to come.