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Plan B Parenting: 5 Tips for Dealing with the Unexpected

3. Become resourceful. If you know there are times when you simply must be at the office, then plan ahead and make sure you have a couple of babysitters, a family member or a babysitting service available in the background for a last minute emergency. When something unexpected happens to your child, ask yourself if you absolutely need to be at the office all day. Maybe you could get child care help for the two hours of that morning meeting or for the one hour of the conference call in the afternoon and be home with your child the rest of the day. A young mom who works from home told me that she planned an important call during nap time of her toddler. Only problem was, that day, the toddler decided not to nap. Mom started her call, the toddler was playing at her side, and suddenly she began to cry and get clingy. After all, doesn’t every child get clingy when the parent is on the phone? Mom kept her cool and pulled a trick out of her Plan B Parenting bag. She scooped up her child, put her in a safe room with toys, closed the door and walked away. The child instantly became absorbed in the toys and quieted down. Quick thinking and resourcefulness saved the call.

4. Tap into your empathy. I’m sure you’ve had days when you’ve over planned. A mom told me that one day she got her young daughter up extra early to drive her husband to the airport. They went immediately to the grocery store, then to the park for some play time before they drove to the mall for some fast-paced shopping. On the way home she stopped off to see a friend who also had a small child. By this time her own daughter had missed her nap and was feeling overwhelmed and tired. So she acted out by crying, getting cranky and hitting the other child. It was only then that mom realized what her daughter must have been feeling. Rather than getting upset with her child, she pulled out her Plan B empathy skill, scooped up her daughter and cuddled her and took her home for an overdue sleep and a return to normalcy. Remembering to get inside the skin of your child — at any age — so you can see and feel the world from her perspective allows you to be patient and give your child the empathy she may need.

5. Learn to prioritize. Plan B Parenting encourages you to focus on what’s really important to you. If your child comes home from school sad and downtrodden, forget the laundry and spend the evening with him. One young mom I know is a physician, treating patients and doing research at a university hospital. Professionally it’s a perfect opportunity for career growth, but time-wise it’s a job and a half. So she’s re-prioritized what’s most valuable to her and taken a position in a private clinic which will give her more precious time with her baby. And don’t forget to take care of yourself by putting YOU at the top of your priority list. If you take a family vacation and want to maximize your own fun and relaxation, bring a nanny or hire babysitters at the hotel. It’s totally fine to say, “This one’s for me.”

Parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever have. It’s also the most important one. So take the time to strategize what will work for you. The whole family will appreciate your creativity when you need to shift your day.

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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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