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Parenting through tough times: Five tips

It's sort of funny when I look at this post title. It seems that ALL our parenting time has been tough. If it's not one kid, it's another. Or two at once. Or all five. We've had normal challenges (bedtime woes, weird eating habits) and really tough things (mental illness, criminal activity). It is hard to stay sane. It is hard to stay faithful. It's hard to parent when you're really mad at your kid.

What to do? Here are five ideas.

1. Pray. I know, it sounds trite. I know it sounds obvious. Believe me, it's not. When things get really hard, it can be tough to pray. You want to blame God; you want Him to fix stuff NOW. Or, He feels so far away that you think, "Why bother?" Remember, prayer isn't for God; it's for us. Prayer will keep you connected to Him, help you to remember to rely on His grace and mercy and ultimately, remind you He is in control. If you can't pray spontaneously, then use a prayer book or spiritual reading.

2. Get help. If you are dealing with a big problem, you need big help. Go to a professional. That might mean a psychologist, a psychiatrist, your family physician. If it's spiritual help you need, find a good priest or religious. If your kid needs help, don't delay or deny. If you need help, get it. If the parent is sick and tired, the family will suffer. There is no glory in playing the martyr - get help.

3. Stay connected. Stay connected to your spouse, your friends, your parish family. You need social outlets and time to have fun and relax. Get out of the house and socialize, even if for a short time. Do it frequently - once a month is not a healthy social life.

4. Be honest. Be honest with yourself and your kid. If there is a big problem, don't pretend it isn't there. Tackle it. If your kid needs professional help (therapy, medication, etc.), do your best to explain why while remaining honest. If friends and family ask what's going on, be honest. You don't have to give a big sob story, but you can say, "Johnny is dealing with depression. We're working on it, but we'd appreciate your prayers."

5. Focus on your own health. Exercise, eat right, take your vitamins. Make sure your own health issues are addressed. Find a hobby that helps relieve stress and gives you something healthy to focus on. The healthier you are, the more energy you'll have to tackle the issues facing you.

Okay, one more: Don't blame.  Don't say it's the teacher's fault, your spouse's fault, your kid's friends fault. Blame won't solve the problem, and that's your objective. Focus on the issue, not finding someone to blame it on.

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Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.