July 20, 2007 —
You know the commercials. A bespectacled and jumper-clad man travels all over with his cell phone, repeatedly asking: "Can you hear me now?" The answer is always yes. The same can't be said in my life. Depending on where I am, I lose calls, get jumbled responses, or am besieged by static. My cell phone history seems an appropriate metaphor for talking with my daughter and nephews. Sometimes, the reception is crystal clear and, at other times, I feel like I'm talking to myself in a tunnel. I've always known how important it is to talk with kids about everything. Since I recently became a part of the Five Moms Campaign to stop cough medicine abuse, however, I've realized how crucial it is to keep the lines of communication open between my kids and me. As kids get older, they have more competing influences in their lives and my job is to make sure that they know how to make good decisions and follow through with them, and that I'm here to help them do it. The problems my kids face today are a lot different then my generation faced, so I've been working on understanding just exactly what they have to deal with. I read about what is available on the Internet, I visit sites like Partnership for a Drug-Free America to figure out what dangerous substances are out there, and I subscribe to current events magazines to make sure I am "in the know." I have experience, sure, but I have to be informed about their world so I can understand them and help guide them. I also spend a lot of time just talking and spending quality time with my daughter and nephews. They know the first thing I'm going to ask when they get home from school is "How was your day?? I also get to know their friends and their friends' parents. My kids' friends are always welcome at our house. It lets me to get to know them and make sure that they are all having safe and responsible fun. I've learned to be less afraid of the difficult conversations, too. As a parent, those conversations are part of my job. I try to use "teachable moments" to start a conversation, steer a discussion, or illustrate a moral. Talking with my daughter and my nephews about substance abuse, what they do on the Internet, and who their friends are part of parenting and keeping them safe. I make sure it's a two-way street, as well. I share with my kids what's happening in my life. They know all about my involvement in the Five Moms Campaign and their input and advice on how to stop teens from abusing cough medicine to get high is very valuable to me. The cornerstone, however, is that I work to show the kids in my life that I care about them. I tell them I love them every single day - they know there is nothing I wouldn't do for them. I want my daughter and my nephews to feel like they can come to me and talk about anything. No problem is too difficult for us to solve together. Talking to and listening to my kids is the best way I have to keep them safe. I'd love to hear about how you communicate with the kids in your life. And, if you have a moment, please take a step towards protecting your kids from the dangerous trend of cough medicine abuse by visiting http://fivemoms.gather.com.