David G. Bale
How Do I Plan for My Children's Needs?
"I Want to Leave My Children Enough that They Feel They Can Do Anything, but Not so Much that They Do Nothing."
Gene Wilder, the successful actor and comedian who recently passed away, once described how-when he was a child-he'd helped care for his mother. She had been extremely ill with a heart condition. His mother's physician, upon examining her, warned the young Wilder to be good... or he could kill his mother. The physician also told him try to make her laugh. So, Gene Wilder reported that he did try to make her laugh. This was at the root of his comedic career.
Stories like this make clear the profound effect life circumstances have on a child's development and direction.
We are all on life's stage; it is good for children to develop a sense of who they want to be, and they have a foundation for living well in the stage lights. Parents can help by planning to avoid pitfalls of uncertainty. But it takes real forethought to meet unexpected contingencies such as a parent's death, or disability of a parent or a child.
Who Is Going to Take Care of My Children if I Cannot?
This is a question that goes to the heart of planning for your children's welfare. At minimum, approach the planning by considering your absence from your children-both temporary and permanent. You should at the least make arrangements for providing instruction, support and care for your children. This requires examination of your social, psychological, emotional and physical resources and your goals for your children. Upon doing this, you can next determine a proper guardian for your children, if you cannot be present.
Family members are probably likely prospective candidates. Disrupting the family relationships by appointing non-family guardians can create a sense of identity insecurity in a minor child, and a sense of resentment within your extended family. However, ultimately, you are in charge, and you may find that family members are not the best candidates. It is wise to consider the degree of sacrifice that family members are willing to make for their close relations with your children. It is also important that you consider your child's needs are met with the prospective guardian. Sometimes there are greater resources available, when greater sacrifices are made to further your goals for your children.
Parenting styles make a difference, too. Make sure that your child or children would receive clear instruction consistent to some degree with your approach. This is especially true in the areas of your life that you consider most important, such as education, interpersonal relations and responsibility or self-expression.
Don't forget the personality of the child, when choosing a guardian. Who's best for an extroverted kid may not be the best for a quieter, more sensitive child. The relationship between your children is important to consider as well where there are several minors in your family. You may also be concerned about a sense of community, or participation socially if a child is otherwise challenged to connect with others, due to shyness or autism.
However, it is impossible to choose "another you," and so reasonable compromises are necessary.
Once guardians are chosen, they must agree upon their role. If they do, then plans should be made to introduce that person or those persons more completely into your family life. This is true, so that if support is required it may be accomplished with as little disruption as possible in your child's life or children's lives.
Doing this type of planning will also teach you and your family to talk about those things important for your family's growth and maturity-even if you never need a substitute parent.
Religion and Values
As adults, your children will choose their values and religious beliefs, but religious and social values are often a source for strength in engaging in social interaction with others that give a sense of purpose and provide creative connections.
Realize that a guardian's faith isn't just religious tradition. It's about values as well, including those with whom they are in close connection. Therefore, when choosing a guardian spend time with them in various social contexts, to better understand them, and to have them better understand you. Choose someone who shares your beliefs and attitudes for promotion of those values you aspire for your children.
What About Recreation?
If you have the luxury of choosing guardians who have resources of their own, or you have sufficient resources to support your children's recreational activities, how might you preserve the sense of fun or enjoyment of recreational activities that you enjoy? How might you ensure that a child is participates in activities that you value as a family-such as travel, education or family history. These considerations may be of a lesser importance than food, shelter and religion, but they can be important to provide a sense of security, purpose and growth.
Extracurricular activities-even with some calculated risk-are an important way to convey a sense of purpose and an identity, since an element of a healthy and secure child is an individual that can take risks in learning as they mature. Your children should be able to choose wisely. Knowing what is acceptable and what is not acceptable will assist them in doing so. Good clean fun can be a way of teaching these principles, so the adverse results of unwise choices are palpable, and so your child can discern the difference between healthy activities and those that may be destructive.
Choosing someone to help guide your child in these ways of how to have fun may be important to avoid negative activities and encourage positive ones that lead to discovery, with calculated risks to achieve goals with planning.