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Faithlink - Parent Zone :: December 2007
By Alan S.L. Wong

I am father to a three-year-old girl and I bring her up alone. Recently, I place her in a childcare centre. She seems able to part with me when I drop her at the centre. However, her teacher tells me she refuses to put down her bag and water bottle, but carries them around throughout her stay. This worries me.

Your daughter's refusal to put down her bag and water bottle may indicate that these things (which are familiar to her) are providing her with a sense of security and comfort in a new environment. There is nothing abnormal about being attached to them. Once she is comfortable in the childcare centre and with her teacher and other children, she may on your own accord put her bag and bottle down.

Nevertheless, you can help in the following ways:

  1. Relate a story (especially from your childhood) where Jesus assured you of His presence and comforted you.

  2. Tell her the story of Peter walking on water and drowning and how Jesus saved him in Matthew 14:22-31. It would be great if you can find a picture of this story in a Children's Bible and show it to your daughter as you tell the story. If you can't find such a picture, contact me.

  3. Each day, lead her to the place where she can put down her bag and bottle. Guide her to put these down. If she refused, don't force her. Be patient and continue to commit the situation to the LORD. Prayed for you and your daughter.

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart
    And do not lean on your own understanding.
    In all your ways acknowledge Him,
    And He will make your paths straight.
    Proverbs 3:5-6

  4. If you think that her hands are full with her bag and bottle and they are preventing her from participating in the childcare centre's activities then you may want to consider providing a substitute that will free her hands e.g., a bracelet with a cross or a laminated photo of you that she can put in her pocket.
There is another possible explanation for the situation though your daughter did not display any overt "separation anxiety". To your daughter, putting down her bag and bottle may indicate she is "staying for good". Her refusal to put her belongings down is her way of saying, "I will be going home". She may be afraid that you are not coming back for her.

If she is able to recognize the numbers 1-12 then show her the clock at the childcare centre (I assume they have one) and say something like this, "When the long hand is at 12 and the short hand is at 6 (i.e., 6 pm), Daddy will come and pick you up then we will go home together." Alternatively, explain to her the childcare programme for the day then tell her that you will come and pick her up after a certain activity. You need to do this consistently for a period of time till she is assured that you will definitely come back for her.

My 17-year-old daughter has many aspirations but seems lacking in concrete actions to work towards them. What can I do?

It is natural for youths to dream and have many aspirations. I had many career aspirations but today, I am doing something radically different. Your daughter is 17 and I assume she is still in school. As long as she is responsible in her main role as a student, you can allow yourself and her room to dream.

I understand your desire to guide her. Proverbs 22:29 states,

Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men.

A person who has mastery and excels in his/her work will go far in life.

Support one of her aspirations in a concrete way. Ask yourself, "Which of her aspirations is a most likely reality in the future given her present aptitudes and interests?"

Next, talk to her. Tell her that you like to help her achieve that aspiration. Ask her how you can help e.g., buying the necessary equipment or resources; using your network to put her in contact with the right people, etc to jumpstart the process of working towards her aspiration.

Once done, do not push or nag. Follow through by asking her progress towards her goal. If she gives up her dream, accept it. Do not say, "You have wasted all the money that I spent in supporting your dream." Treat it as an investment of your love for her.

I see my children only in the evenings after work. How can I make the most of the little time I have with them so that I can still enjoy strong bonding with my children?

Having less time available for children is a real concern for working parents. Here are some possible solutions:

  1. Hire help for household chores so that you can spend more time with the children

  2. Maximise use of evenings and weekends

  3. Use your annual vacation to take breaks with your children
You did not mention their ages. I assume they are young (below 12?) since you use the word "children".

Do with them the things they like to do. Play with them the games they like to play. Get involved in their world, their lives and likes.

When they are tired of their usual games, get creative and propose some other fun activities. Here are three that come to my mind:

  1. Switch off all the lights in your home and bring out light sticks (glowsticks). Use bedsheets and furniture to set up tents in the living room and imagine the family is camping out in an imaginary forest.

    Explore the "forest" and go hunting with the light sticks and imagine all the "shadow" animals you see.

    No camp is complete without a campfire. Put the light sticks in a pile and you have a campfire. Now you can toast marshmallows (on satay sticks) on the imaginary fire. Have fun!

  2. Explore the neighbourhood park in the dark with torchlights and adjourn for a night snack at a fast food restaurant.

  3. Visit the Night Safari.
Another thing they may enjoy is listening to stories of your childhood. Create unforgettable memories and your bonds with your children will be strong.

Just to cover the possibility that your children are older than 12, the same principle applies … do with them the things they like to do. Go to the movies together and talk … talk about the movie, the day’s events … what happened, etc.

Share about yourself and your struggles … this allows your children to have a part in your life. Talking about your weaknesses and failures with your children gives them the freedom to fail. It also assures them of being accepted and loved unconditionally.

Throughout the Bible, the heroes of faith are presented as men subject to like passions as we are (Jas. 5:17) with strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Apostle Paul shared freely about his past and his sense of unworthiness (1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:15). Paul was not afraid to allow others to see him as he was.

However, exercise caution and wisdom in revealing feelings or facts that may hurt your children or your spouse.