“The only constant in life is change” has been attributed to Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher so many years ago. Amazing how this is still pertinent today, in such different times. Regardless of the age, change is difficult for all of us. We become comfortable in some things and it is hard to break out of that comfort zone. I have been thinking a lot about this given my recent move to Legacy Pediatrics. The move was something I had been thinking about for some time…then the timing was just right. As difficult a decision as it was for me, I could not be happier in my new home! No matter how daunting a change may seem, what is scarier is regret.
Think of all the changes that we encounter as parents. The joyful anticipation of a new baby changes our lives forever. Author Elizabeth Stone wrote: “Making this decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body.” I think most parents would agree with this! The unconditional love between a parent and child is stronger than any other emotion you have ever felt. The first years go so quickly! It seems as soon as you get one stage mastered, they move on to the next…a blur of constant change.
The school years unfold in front of us as quickly as well. The seemingly long days of homework and soccer practice melt away into memories of wondering where that school year went. All this time, our children are looking to us, their parents, as their ever-present teachers. We may not think that kids always pay attention to what we are doing, but they do! As our children’s most powerful mentors, parents are in the best position to teach them about change and positive ways to handle it. Whether they are teens or toddlers, our children are constantly watching us and how we deal with the everyday stress that life brings. If they see us coping with our own stress in a negative way, they will follow suit.
Studies show that teenagers who eat dinner with their families are less likely to engage in negative behaviors involving drugs and alcohol and more likely to get better grades and be mentally and physically healthy.
If we turn to that full bag of potato chips when we are feeling anxious, or drink after work daily, we are sending the message that junk food and alcohol are a suitable way to handle tension in our lives. Alternately, if we go for a walk around the block or do a 5-minute mediation, this shows them a healthy alternative to deal with things. If someone cuts us off in traffic and we rant and rave, our kids will likely do the same. If you sit down at the dinner table and talk about the day and how it was tense or tiring, kids learn that talking about frustration and aggravation is a healthy way to manage it. Indeed, one of the best things that you can do is sit down for a nightly meal together. Studies show that teenagers who eat dinner with their families are less likely to engage in negative behaviors involving drugs and alcohol and more likely to get better grades and be mentally and physically healthy. As we model healthy methods of handling the angst in our lives, we are teaching our children and helping ourselves.
So as we move into the much anticipated summer, I hope you can enjoy some down time with your children. Unplug your phones and computers for a day! Relish the unstructured moments. Go for a walk and listen to what your kids have to say. Spend as much time as you can together…the days of summer and youth are fleeting.
We as pediatric providers have the unique privilege of helping parents negotiate the magical time that is childhood and adolescence. It is truly an honor to be a part of this journey and we hope you will turn to us with any questions or concerns you encounter along the way.