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Devoting Life To Your Kids Is Not Healthy

John Rosemond Charlotte Observer

Has your family succumbed to Frantic Family Syndrome, or FFS?

The symptoms that characterize this peculiar malady include (a) parents who spend a disproportionate amount of time racing children from one activity to another, (b) family meals which are hurried, often purchased at drivethrough windows, and/or rarely include every member of the family, (c) parents who work 50 weeks a year, yet feel obligated to take what little vacation they’ve earned where their children - who have earned nothing - want to go, (d) weekend activities that are centered primarily around the children, and (e) perpetual exhaustion on the part of a parent or parents, along with the feeling the children don’t appreciate much of anything done for them.

If you recognize yourself in that description, then your family is, indeed, suffering the ill effects of FFS. Don’t feel alone, however. I estimate that three out of four families represented by my national readership are so afflicted - and obliviously so! In advance of my recent a talk on the subject, for example, a woman called to say that she wanted to attend but couldn’t because her children’s activity schedule wouldn’t allow it.

Those who recognize themselves in the above description are encouraged to give thought and discussion (with spouses and/or friends) to the following questions:

If you are married, have the two of you unwittingly allowed the roles of father and mother to take precedence over the roles of husband and wife? If the answer is yes, what can the two of you begin doing to restore your marriage at “centerstage” in your family? Suggestion: Develop a list of at least five ways you can accomplish this objective and establish a completion/ implementation date for each. (For example, go out at least one night per week without the children, beginning next Friday.)

Whether you are single or married, have you “suspended” certain activities and interests since you became a parent out of the feeling that if you continue engaging in them, you’ll be “taking something away” from the kids? If so, make a commitment to yourself to become re-involved in one of these interests every three months until you’ve re-activated all of them.

What sorts of pressures are you feeling from other parents, your extended family and your children’s school to keep yourself constantly busy in service to your children? Why is it important that you fail to rise to their standards of “good parenting”?

If your children whine and complain a lot, do you think there’s a relationship between the time you spend in their service and this sort of behavior? What pressures and/or anxieties are preventing you from taking complete control of your relationship with your kids?

What activities are your children currently involved in that require a commitment of time on your part? How much time per week does each of these require? If your children were no longer involved in certain of these activities, would their future chances for success be compromised? If not, consider placing limits on how much time per week you’re willing to spend on your children’s activities and communicate these limits to your children, thus requiring them to begin setting priorities.

Are you communicating more with your children than with your husband and/or adult friends? If so, list five ways your children would benefit from you reducing your involvement in their activities, social lives, homework, projects, etc.

Is it important to you that your children grow up to be independent, resourceful, self-reliant and willing to be of service to others? Are the precedents you are establishing in your relationship with them conducive to this outcome? If not, what can you begin doing today to put everyone on the right track?

By the way, I’ve been in touch with a certain media personality who’s interested in families that suffer from Frantic Family Syndrome as well as families that once suffered but cured themselves. If you’d like to perhaps share your story with a national audience, send me a letter at Frantic Family Syndrome, P.O. Box 4124, Gastonia, NC 28054.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist in North Carolina. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at the above address and at http:/ / on the Internet’s World Wide Web.

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