It was Sept. 12, 2008, and I was scrambling through my house in Houston, trying to secure my family, check our emergency supplies and board up the windows while packing a duffle bag full of rain gear and non-perishable food so I could leave for Galveston Island and cover Hurricane Ike, a powerful storm approaching the Gulf Coast and expected to make landfall in less than 24 hours. The anxiety I felt that day made me realize how unprepared for an emergency my family was at home.
Now that I have two children, I know how important it is to have a family survival plan for the unexpected emergencies nature throws our way, and also for the inevitable disappointments, dangers and other “storms of life” our kids will hit us with as they grow up.
How do we say no to our 5-year-old who wants an iPhone because her friend has one? How do we convince our pre-teen that she doesn’t need to watch an R-rated movie? How do we stand our ground when our teenagers post pictures of themselves on unapproved social-media accounts or have friends we don’t approve of?
To guide my kids through the turbulent stages of growing up, I rely on my “family survival guide,” a list of values to help them build a strong foundation for life:
Trust: I work daily to gain and maintain the trust of my daughters Sofia, 5, and Olivia, 1, by picking them up on time and always following through with what I promise – from discipline to taking them to the park. It’s also important to me that they see that I am the same person on the streets and behind closed doors at home.
Security: I want my girls to have a sense of security so they feel comfortable engaging with the exciting world they are discovering as they grow. This means I talk openly about its dangers – from going up to pet an unknown dog to speaking with strangers and inappropriate touching. We talk about the risks of running off by themselves and the importance of memorizing our phone numbers in case they ever get lost. I hope that teaching them the risks and consequences of certain actions helps them feel more secure.
Self-Respect: Our children are growing up in a time where good role models are harder to come by, and I want my husband and I to fill that need for our daughters. I can tell they are watching my every move to see whether my actions match my words. I watch carefully how I dress and how I refer to others. I try to model helpfulness and gratitude toward people. I strongly believe teaching kids self-respect goes hand in hand with teaching them what we give is more important than what we are given.
Responsibility: Holding our kids accountable for their actions and words has come easy for me because my parents always had high expectations of my behavior. Whenever I left the house, they would say to me, “Don’t forget you are an ambassador to our home.” In our home, teaching responsibility is as easy as giving my girls 10- and five-minute warnings before leaving a playdate and having them keep their room clean and handle small chores such as helping walk the dog and setting the table.
Many days, raising my girls feels like a “storm” in my mind, but as I think about that frantic day when I was getting ready to report on Hurricane Ike, I remind myself how similar life is to a hurricane’s path. The trajectory and strength of a storm can change at any moment. As parents, we can experience similar unexpected challenges and changes. List your family’s priorities and create your own “family survival guide,” and you’ll feel ready for any forecast.
Daniella Guzman is the anchor on NBC4 Southern California’s “Today in LA” weekday morning newscast, 4:30-7 a.m. A mother of two, Daniella’s column, “On the Record,” brings her views on parenting, fun family activities and her take on work-life balance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @daniellanbcla.