All the planning and anticipation is paying off. The council is tonight. Phones turned off, young minds definitely turned on, there are questions to ask, comments to make. Is there anything more wonderful for a parent than being with the next generation of oneself?! (Relax. Smile. And get ready to listen hard to the people who will make the best of the future, bringing your genes with them.) You may be a bit antsy at first, but remind yourself that the people sitting with you are flesh of your flesh. Between us, this is a rare chance to come off the mom pedestal and own up to your humanness — warts and all. They'll remember these councils and your gutsiness for a long time. (They'll probably hold them with their own children.) So be sure your answers are plain, easy to understand — oh, and 100 percent honest. No one sniffs out duplicity like the young.
During the council, suggest making these meetings a regular, planned part of the family's routine. And explain the importance of airing gripes before they're set in cement. Ask everyone to keep a running list of issues and questions to bring up at these get-togethers. They can be anything at all, small and large. (The idea may meet with groans at first because it sounds like homework, but pretty soon those lists will be appreciated. You'll see.)
The magic of family councils is the warmth and security they instill (and reinforce) in both generations. You and your children may have used to feel a bit embarrassed to show up at family gatherings with a father figure missing, but regularly scheduled family meetings can boost morale and self-image, to the point where the young generation might just be inspired to form a group of their peers who also live in single-parent homes!
And what about you? You might consider doing the same for moms and dads parenting solo, meeting them through your children's school/activities. These family councils in your own home just might give you the strength and impetus to use the format in the outside world.
Time and time again, it's been shown to me that a firm footing in the family is the most valuable gift you can give your children. How to do that? By giving them one-on-one time, your full and complete attention. They don't need the fancy sneakers; your time and full, undistracted attention are their nutrition. And family councils can accomplish this. Imagine, one entire evening dedicated to an intimate exchange between you and your next generation. It just doesn't get any better than that.
DEAR READERS: We've uncovered a treasure-trove of "Single File" paperbacks — in perfect condition, ready to read. Send $15 and your address to: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. I'll send you a signed copy.
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