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Giving 'Enough' to Your Children

By Debra Gilbert Rosenberg

How does anyone ever know when she is doing enough for her kids? "Enough" is such a hard word to define! Let's think about what it might mean to be doing enough. To me, doing enough means that your children are clean, adequately clothed and fed, have a safe and comfortable place to live, get enough sleep, and feel that they are loved. In addition, they have access to an education, medical and dental care, and opportunities to explore areas of their own interest. Nowhere does it say that all
children need to wear the most fashionable clothes, go on exotic vacations, learn to speak three languages, play two musical instruments, and own the newest video games or computer accessories.
Sometimes, I'm not even sure that such luxuries are advisable.

What children need most, beyond the essentials of living a reasonably
healthy and safe life, is appropriate affection, attention, and nurturing from loved ones. They need to know that you are thrilled that they exist, that you find them, usually, pretty fascinating,
and that you take pleasure in their figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. They need to feel that their choices and behaviors, regardless of whether or not they
choose for themselves what you would have chosen for them, will be acceptable to you, and they want to feel that whatever reasonable choices they make will be met with joy and approval, and not
disdain.

You are doing enough for your kids if you offer them safety, love, and the opportunity to find out who they are, what they enjoy, and at what they excel. Forcing them to take piano lessons will be pointless and perhaps even damaging if they have no interest in the piano themselves, while denying them piano lessons, if the piano is their passion, will be devastating. The idea is to nurture the children in your life, not to shower them with stuff or opportunities that they cannot appreciate, or might even resent.

"Enough" has nothing to do with how you were raised or what you wished you had growing up. "Enough" really means providing your children with an environment that feels physically and emotionally safe, and the opportunity for each child to explore and develop his or her own interests and talents. Fortunately, it doesn't take a lot of money to do enough for your kids. The hardest part is to figure out what your child truly needs, to offer support and guidance without pressure, and to avoid the temptation either to give everything to and to do everything for your children, or to allow your children so much freedom and acceptance that they don't learn that their choices will always have consequences.

Don't worry too much about doing enough for your kids, despite living in a world where value is often measured in concrete terms. Do what seems right for you and your children, do not compete with your neighbors, relatives, or friends, and do not confuse your children's successes and failures with your own. Listen to your children when they talk to you, and watch their behaviors when they don't. Be tuned in to who your kids are as individuals and fill their needs as you understand them and deem them appropriate. Do what you can, love your children, honor their uniqueness, and enjoy them. This is much harder to do than simply making sure that their clothes are stylish, they go to the "right" schools, or that they participate in the "right" activities. But it will be enough.

Debra Gilbert Rosenberg is a licensed clinical social worker and adjunct faculty member in the Sociology Department at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. She is the author of The New Mom's Companion: Care for Yourself While You Care for Your Newborn, and Motherhood Without Guilt: Being the Best Mother You Can Be and Feeling Great About It, due in October 2004. For more info, visit www.debragilbertrosenberg.com

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