The Family Project: Children’s needs
Q. My husband and I separated six months ago. We have a custody agreement for our children, ages 7 and 10, that works well. My husband spends a lot of money taking the children to the movies and out to eat. I can’t afford to entertain them that way. What can I do?
The discussion of this question began with panelist Mike Ramsey explaining that spending on children in situations like this may be based on two things: guilt over the separation, and competition.
“If these are the reasons for the spending,” Ramsey said, “then the parents misunderstand what is important in maintaining and strengthening their relationships with their kids. What really matters to the children is time and stability.”
Panelist Denise Continenza said, “The things that kids value and remember are not always what we spend a lot of money on. It is often the simple pleasures that kids value the most.”
“When parents spend a lot of money, the emphasis tends to be on the activity,” panelist Mike Daniels said, adding, “When they spend time playing games, eating popcorn and watching movies at home, or building a fort, the focus is on the relationship.”
“The children can both understand the difference between entertainment that is glitzy, and time spent on activities that are homey and family,” panelist Pam Wallace said, adding, “At ages 7 and 10, consistency and reliability are what kids really need from their parents.”
Daniels said, “Children never regret the things their parents didn’t buy them, or the places they didn’t take them. What is lasting are the memories of playing and laughing together.”
The panelists said that the Lehigh Valley is blessed with a lot of free entertainment and fun things to do. It was suggested that the mother check online at:
What is important, Daniels said, is for parents to realize that their children have had a serious life change from their parents’ separation. “They [the children] are making sense of all the emotions going on between mom and dad,” said Daniels, adding, “The good news is that the mother believes the custody agreement is doing well. That means the kids are getting the best from both parents.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House, and Mike Daniels, LCSW, owner-therapist, Creative Treatment Solutions.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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