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Plan B Parenting: 5 Tips for Dealing with the Unexpected

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Plan B Parenting: 5 Tips for Dealing with the Unexpected

A friend of mine recently flew with her six-year-old son Ryan across the country to visit her mom. Grandma had been looking forward to their visit for weeks. Ryan was excited to spend time with Grandma and his East Coast cousins. And my friend was anticipating a long overdue visit with her family. Then the unexpected happened. Ryan got a fever on the plane and spent all four days there in bed with a bad cold. There were no visits, no family meals and no games or play dates because Ryan was contagious and needed to sleep. Then to make matters even worse, the plane home was re-routed and delayed.

Welcome to the world of Plan B Parenting — that world where perfect plans and little peeps plummet!

How do you handle it when your routine gets disrupted because of your children? What do you do when your kids force your plans to go south? Truthfully, there are only a few options. You could have a meltdown — simply fall apart and become useless. You could get angry and start the blaming game. Or you could buck up and cope the best way you can.

It’s not that it’s easy. Sure, parenting is full of joy and fun. But it also has its disappointing moments. Even though we might like to be in control, of course, we’re not. You’ll remember that you weren’t in control when your children were born, so there’s no reason to think you could become the commander of a perfectly ordered life afterwards.

Here are 5 strategies to shift your day when it starts to take a course of its own.

1. Shift your perspective. Let’s say you’ve planned a dinner party for friends and have bought ingredients for a complicated, gourmet meal. The day of the party — the day you had planned to prepare the dishes — little Johnny gets sick. You sit at the doctor’s office for an hour, you get stuck in traffic coming home, you spend time soothing your son because he is so uncomfortable. And suddenly you don’t have time to cook the dinner. You could panic, get snappy or move so fast you start to break dishes. Of you could shift your perspective, pull out the Plan B Parenting motto and say to yourself, “Let’s not take everything so seriously here.” It’s only a dinner party. My advice? Get carry out or order in pizza. If your friends don’t understand, they probably aren’t very good friends anyway. And you can always reschedule the gourmet dinner.

2. Practice flexibility. Learning to adapt and go with the flow is probably the most widely used parenting skill in the world. The only things that’s constant with kids is change, so parents need to be prepared to switch plans at a moment’s notice. On Halloween a young mom I know had the perfect plan for her kids. First, they all went to the hockey game of her older son, then they were planning to go trick or treating. They’d even invited friends to go along. All was going as planned — until her son fell on the ice toward the end of the hockey game and broke his arm. She now had five kids in pirate, witch and pumpkin costumes and a sixth with a compound fracture. She stayed calm, pulled out her Plan B flexibility skills and adapted quickly to the new situation. Within minutes she shuffled five little goblins off to a friend, and while racing her son to the ER, she made overnight arrangements for the five trick or treaters because she feared their hospital visit would run into the night. She was a master at flexibility, a parenting trait that makes her kids feel safe and secure because they know mom can handle anything that comes up.

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Joanne Stern

Joanne Stern, PhD, is a psychotherapist with a private practice emphasizing counseling with families, parents, couples and teens. She’s a teacher, consultant, speaker, and expert guest on parenting and family topics, including communication, discipline, self-esteem, addictions, eating disorders, grief, and loss. Parenting Is a Contact Sport: 8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Kids for Life is her first book. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband, Terry Hale, live in Aspen, Colorado.


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3:53AM PDT on May 13, 2011

I completely agree with your parenting tips. According to me at the certain age of the children they want friend more than parents, so its better you to be a friend of your child and make them understand about all these serious issues.

8:21AM PDT on May 7, 2011


4:44PM PST on Feb 12, 2011


12:26PM PST on Feb 5, 2011

This was a very helpful article.

2:48AM PST on Feb 5, 2011

I agree with Diana S., but from a slightly different perspective. When I was little kids were not constantly on stage. Boys often spent their entire Saturday with no adult supervision, roaming as far as they liked [this could easily get your kids removed for "neglect" today.] Girls even had hours where they could explore on their own close to home. Children who are not constantly judged and have time for their own needs, can be easier for adults to deal with. I hope this world will eventually make room for healthy childhood again.

5:07PM PST on Feb 4, 2011

Of course they will get mad over a candy bar and fight over cereal, Catherine; their kids are being obnoxious at the grocery store!!
I hate it when kids cant save their "obnoxiousness" for when they are back home, like why show the world how dysfunctional we are?

10:01PM PST on Feb 3, 2011

These hints are not for just those with kids. Thanks!

9:10AM PST on Feb 3, 2011

great... thanks

1:36AM PST on Feb 3, 2011

Thanks for the article.

9:20PM PST on Feb 2, 2011


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