Parenting 101: Being There

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by Mark Moore, MD

Breaking news: Dads love their kids -- and are spending more time with them! According to new statistics released from the Department of Labor, today's dads spend 50% more time with their children than dads did 25 years ago. A post-911 baby boom, a return to the basics of family priority, new technologies which allow offsite work and a corporate culture which is more accepting of family values are some of the factors which have led to more family time for fathers.

In the movie "Being There," Peter Sellers encounters a series of fortunate events, not by working hard or having a genius IQ, but simply by being there. For parents who are unsure of what to do for their children and what to do with their time together, start with "being there". Begin with proximity. Be home when they are home, even if in a different room or outside. Progress to the same room, and eventually to the same room and same activity.

Be there for your children after school when you can. Be there for your child at dinner five or six times a week (yes, five or six). Studies prove this one gesture lowers the incidence of underage drinking, drug use and other potentially harmful behaviors. You've seen the TV commercial emphasizing how kids will listen to their parents -- dinner is a good time for it.

The reality that dad and/or mom work to support the family is not lost. Some dads work two jobs to make ends meet. Many of today's households have a single parent. Others have extended families with step-parents. Some jobs require days of travel or long hours. There is no question that it takes more effort to find time in these situations.

The good news is that it doesn't cost money or require a trip to Disneyland or a vacation at the beach. There is no son or daughter too old or too young for this to be applied. Awareness and recognition are the first steps. Follow with proximity, then, activity.

Mark Moore, MD is a pediatric and obstetric anesthesiologist in Tallahassee, Florida. He is the author of Baby Girl or Baby Boy.

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