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July 1994 Issue [Readings]

Long-Distance Parenting

From “Guilt Trips,” a pamphlet of “positive parenting tips” created and distributed by MCI Telecommunications to parents who travel on business. More than 10,000 people have ordered the pamphlet since April.

For parents, business trips often tum into guilt trips: guilt about missing important family events, guilt about missing everyday routines, guilt about leaving your loved ones behind. But there are positive parenting steps you can take to make your business travel less stressful and more enjoyable for the entire family.

Phone home

As obvious as it might seem, there are some proven guidelines that make phoning home more productive. If you simply ask “How are you?” when you call, you’ll probably hear “I’m fine.” End of conversation. Instead, ask specific questions like “Did you play on the jungle gym at school?” and “How was the T-ball game?” Talk about a current event you and your family might have seen on TV or in the newspaper. Talk about the weather at home and where you are. Use the same “separation sayings” you use at home. If you say “See you later, alligator” at home, say it before you hang up the phone.

Get the facts via fax

Fax machines are a great way to send or receive detailed messages. You can use them to help with homework even when you’re in another city. They’re also a terrific way to send personalized notes or other greetings—perhaps even a comic strip you can all chuckle over.

Play your cards right

Many parents make it a point to send postcards from all their travel destinations. Kids love getting mail addressed to them. You can make scrapbooks of all the postcards, personalizing them by adding: “When I was here, you were playing in the soccer championship.”

Tell them a story

Many parents record stories on tape for their younger kids to play back while the parents are gone. This is perfect for a tuck-in, to make the child feel more comfortable about going to sleep. An appealing alternative to pre-taping a bedtime story is to take a duplicate storybook with you so you can read it over the phone while your little one follows along.

Return to normal

When you return home, keep in mind that there is an inevitable readjustment period, regardless of how long you’ve been gone. This is a great time to gather the family and look at videotapes of events you might have missed while you were away. Break out the popcorn. Put together your postcard scrapbooks. Make a party of it. Have fun.

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July 1994

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