Are parents ready for the role of commander-in-chief? Just as President Bush wears that mantle for our nation, so too do parents for their families. And in a post-September 11 world, mothers and fathers must now carry out their commander-in-chief duties with wartime resolve, in a United States that is forever changed. Gone is the assumption of security that accompanied most Americans through their daily lives. Even if we never experience another terrorist attack on the home front, the threat of one will forever be a possibility. That awareness will follow our families to the T-ball field, to the marketplace and to the classroom. So considering this new reality, how can the American family cope and thrive in the valley of the shadow -- of war? By being prepared.
Parents -- as commanders-in-chief -- must stay focused on homelife as the centerpiece of their lives.
Family as priority should be reflected in the allocation of time and energy. This is most true when it comes to interaction between parent and child. Now, more than ever, children need the reassuring and deliberate presence of their mothers and fathers. Good commanders-in-chief offer that comfort by being seen and heard and available. And just as President Bush meets with his top advisors to plan strategy, mothers and fathers should meet regularly to discuss the needs of their children. They should develop a response plan to deal with their children's emotional fallout in the aftermath of the attacks and the anticipation of war. Parents can also use this time to address their own fears and doubts so that they can present a unified, calming front to their children. A parent's attitude and actions will greatly affect the morale of their troops.
Parents can regularly hold "news conferences" to address their children's questions.
If those concerns are not addressed, children will often use their imaginations to compensate for the information they lack. So answer their questions honestly. Give them the facts. Communicate with compassion. Reassure them through the practice of your faith. Pray with them and let them know that an all-powerful God, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, cares for them.
Finally, parents should familiarize their children with the concept of personal sacrifice in the context of defending the nation's freedom.
All children can begin to understand sacrifice by donating part of their allowance to charity, bringing cookies or cards of thanks to the fire station, or by giving up a Friday night with friends to baby-sit for a family whose mother or father has been deployed on a military assignment.
Before September 11, many people viewed the commander-in-chief responsibilities of the United States presidency in the 21st century as mainly ceremonial. Now, the President is being asked to provide substance beyond the ceremony. That is what the nation's parents must also provide in their homes. Their commander-in-chief duties, if played out well, will prove valuable not only to members of their families but also to America as a whole. Strong families will make for a stronger nation.
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