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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Dear parents: Listen, listen, listen

/ 05:18 AM September 17, 2020

After reading your column (“Help! Our teen does not listen to us,” September 3),” says reader Gary Reyes, “I’d like to add insights from my 30 years of being a parent to two wonderful, loving, God-fearing daughters.

“Raising children these days, with the influences of the internet, peer pressure, reality shows, is a very big challenge. Even with our daughters already grown up, and at 69 years old, I still read columns like yours to see what new insights I can get.

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“I fully agree with you that communication is key. My wife and I kept the lines of communication open with our children, spending our times together (at meals, travels, etc.) to talk and listen, listen, listen. But there is another element of parenting that we made an effort at.”

The couple’s go-to reference as their daughters were growing up is the book “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” by US psychiatrist Meg Meeker, who says, “I’ve watched girls drop off varsity teams, flunk out of school …. all to see if their dads will notice … They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.” “My wife and I were working in the corporate world as our daughters were growing up,” says Reyes. “But we did everything possible to attend school events, make time to help with homework, spend time talking with and listening a lot to our daughters.“Now that they are working—and my wife and I are still working in the corporate world—we still practice the same talk and listen, listen, listen routine with our daughters.” How about for raising sons? Reyes recommends the book “Raising Pinoy Boys” by my friend Rose Fres Fausto, who left banking to focus on parenting and writing. What I like most is that Rose speaks from personal experience: raising three sons with husband Marvin. (See raisingpinoyboys.fqmom.com.)

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“Parents [need to be] proactive in children’s lives to help them face challenges that can be confusing, even scary, at times,” says Reyes.

His experiences exemplify a best practice that emerged from our Ateneo study of student achievers and their families 15 years ago, described in our book “Helping Our Children Do Well in School.”

Spend quantity, as well as quality time, with each other.

One of the saddest questions ever came from a frazzled bank executive: “What is the minimum time we have to spend with our children so they grow up well?” “Research does not identify a set period, since relationships are unique,” I replied, “but consistency is important. Be fully present with your child regularly, no gadgets, no distractions, ideally, at set times a day, during dinner, before bed, etc.”

“Why focus on the minimum?” I added. “Even if you plan fun activities, do you truly believe that 15 minutes a week is enough?” Carla Siojo, a parent in our study, worked in the corporate world until her first child came along. Two more children followed, and even if a midwife helped out for a while, Siojo became a full-time homemaker.

“It was hard to leave office life, especially since the company offered me a higher salary to stay on. But the children come first.” The couple had to give up socializing with friends and even had to minimize pastoral work, which was very important for them.

But the structure was set. “For emergencies, I tell my children beforehand that I won’t be able to be with them immediately. There has to be give and take. I respond to their needs, but they are also expected to respond to mine.” When the fourth child was born, expenses began piling up, so Carla had to return to work, this time as an administrator in Ateneo.

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“But it was no longer difficult to raise our youngest. From her siblings, she already knew our setup and priorities,” she said. Today, the children are successful professionals, and Siojo a doting grandmother.

“Helping Our Children Do Well in School” is available at the Anvil Publishing website.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at www.lazada.com.ph. Contact the author at [email protected]

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