PARENTING FROM A DISTANCE

With more and more Mommies and Daddies working away from home, parenting is a huge challenge of the hour.

Take this colleague of mine as an example. Let’s name her Mrs. Smily. Mrs. Smily had been a stay-at-home-mom for twelve years in her fourteen years of marriage. Her world revolved around her corporate-working husband and two children that she doted on. One fine day, she received the news that she has qualified the public service exam that she had appeared for, seven years before (systemic delays in govt. machinery is an interesting topic to write on!!) With an enviable job in her kitty, she stared at a transferable job that would invariably involve parenting from a distance. The thought terrified her, now that she had two teenagers to think of! It was a massive parenting transition!

Numerous Daddies and Mommies around the world face this predicament. While both parents working away from home is an inescapable financial necessity for many households, having a formidable career is a personality need for others.

Distance parenting doesn’t always involve working parents, however. Let’s break it down.

Case 1 – Either or both parents work at a different location from where their child/ren live.

Case 2 – The child/ren are enrolled in boarding school or residential college away from the parental home.

Where financial necessity is not a concern, parents go for the easy way out – SACRIFICE. One parent (mostly the mother) quits her job to take on a major chunk of parenting responsibilities. The other alternative is to compromise with children’s education and enroll children closer to parent/s so that parenting is not hampered.

This works well for a lot of people. However, many parents are left with pangs of regret years later somewhere deep down their hearts having not been able to achieve much career-wise. Many are left with regrets of having not been provided access to quality education as the educational institutions were far from home.

So then, how do we handle parenting from a distance?

There aren’t exhaustive fix-it-all strategies. That’s precisely because familial and societal/ cultural dynamics vary widely along the diameters of the world. However, there are certain general age-specific tips that work to a great extent if followed diligently.

I’ll write about parenting teenagers from a distance.

Needless to say that teenage is a hurly-burly phase between childhood and adulthood – with silent prodding whispers in the minds of some and roaring tempests within others. Myriad challenges rock the boat of teenagers. In such a phase, parenting is all the more important.

KNOW YOUR CHILD/REN

Most parents experience the ecstasy of observing their infants take the first steps or utter the first word. In the midst of many such firsts, the developing infant enters into teenage. This is where most parents lose touch. From being the guiding lights in their children’s lives, parents start feeling pushed to corners. And this is where, parents need a firm grip on their teens’ lives. The personality and individuality of teen is forming shape, but the teen is not an adult. Parents, show interest to know your teens well – their likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses and passions.

COMMUNICATE OFTEN

No matter how busy parents might get, communicating with their distant-living teens ought never to get a backseat. Stay away from the peering eye of parents unleashes them to enjoy and experiment with life and its choices. This is where parents need to be vigilant by communicating often, though their teens are not before their eyes. Phone conversations, mails, video calls – use all media of communication to interact with your teen. Since, this is the age when most teens start hiding part of their lives, parents need to master the art of reading between the lines and also to be prepared to receive certain shockers without falling off their chairs.

ENCOURAGE FREE EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS

Though all parents desire to have well-mannered teens, many will end up being disappointed. There is no point in having a courteous teen, who is suppressing a volcano within. It is only when teenagers express their raw emotions, can they be guided to regulate them. Even though the teen stays away, a non-judgmental relationship of trust would make him/ her express emotions across the miles.

MAKE YOUR TEEN AWARE OF THE LAWS OF THE LAND

This is an often neglected area. Though it is applicable to all individuals and all teens, it is all the more important for teens staying away from parents. Your teen ought be well-versed with Emergency Helpline numbers; laws against bullying, eve-teasing, cybercrime and ragging; traffic rules; grievance redressal bodies and common acts of justice and justice so that s/he does neither commit errors of omission or commission due to ignorance nor is victimized by mindlessness of others.

HELP YOUR TEEN GAIN FINANCIAL LITERACY

When teens stay away from parents, an often tempting way of compensation is to give too many monetary freebies. This is where parents need to guard their temptations. Giving only as much as a teen requires and guiding him/ her to be accountable for anything that is received and spent along with tips for wise saving and investment would help raise a financially literate teen.

WATCH YOUR WORDS

Though is not something unique to parenting teens from a distance, it is definitely important by several more levels. Harsh words and criticisms from you might make your teen disconnect all channels of communication for days or months on end. This would not only increase parents’ heartbeats, but also embolden the teen to get into an unacceptable pattern of behavior which is not healthy. As parents staying away, may your words be edifying, encouraging, compassionate, coupled with persistent exhortation and wise admonishment. Do not avoid informative conversations on love and relationships with opposite gender.

INGRAIN IN YOUR CHILD THE FEAR OF GOD

Accept it or not, God is the anchor in the storms of life. A teen might be away from the vigilant eyes of parents, but can never be out of the purview of his/ her Creator. In times of loneliness, hopelessness, frustration, dejection, failures, temptations, this anchor will pull your teen through. Having the assurance of the love of God and a fear of wrongdoing will provide stability to your teen in difficult times.

These might not seem to be anything different from the regular ‘handle your teens well’ stuff. But when away from your budding teen, the significance of these seem all the more profound.