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General Articles

Keeping up appearances - How to behave as a parent on the Riviera

Choosing what kind of behaviour to adopt in front of your children poses a problem for parents everywhere but living on the Riviera with the high value placed on financial wealth and material possessions brings with it its own brand of challenges.

From choosing the school you will send your children to, to buying their clothes, issuing pocket money and overseeing their activities, the local playgrounds of the rich and famous make it tough to keep yourself and your offspring grounded.

Choice of school:

Will you choose a French school based on the fact that you want to boast to the folks back home about how your child can speak the lingo fluently or will you choose a costly international option based on the snob value of being able to say your child sits next to the child of a famous formula 1 driver or tennis star? Will you have them educated locally or send them away to a foreign boarding school? How much time will you invest in them as individuals and how much will you hand them over to nannies and the school system which may not compatible with the values that you think they should be growing up with? No one option is better than the other you just have to be honest about which system suits your individual child best and choose on that basis. If you are not a French speaking parent, once the French system’s homework load starts kicking in you will almost certainly need to engage afterschool tutors to help your children stay afloat and that needs to be factored in.

Social media:

There are many questions you should be asking yourself about the choices you make especially as your children will have been born or imported into a culture that is not yours and your references cannot be copied and pasted onto to their local lives. You only have to take a look at social media to see that there is a lot of confusion as to what values and behaviour Riviera parents think is appropriate. On the one hand you have parents posting pictures of their own dubious behaviour and on the other, pictures of their ‘angelic’ offspring through which they appear to measure their own success and worthiness.

No, you cannot earn kudos because you child looks angelic in a party dress or because he won a medal at the latest swimming gala. Riviera parents have a strong tendency to judge themselves by their children’s appearance and achievements. From a security point of view it is neither wise nor advisable to be posting pictures on line of your children ad nauseam and they will probably not thank you for it later either.

Rather than turning your attention outwards to point scoring on social media try turning your attention inwards towards the family and instil some true values that will help them when faced with real challenges of the sort we have seen recently in Paris, rather than false challenges (how many likes do I have on Facebook?). Through your own behaviour, such as weekend outdoor pursuits, healthy body and mind practices, good eating and drinking habits and building up a network of real rather than virtual friends, you will be silently educating your children on how build resilience and cope with real life rather than just a computer screen. For those who want to share pictures and news with family I suggest a secret family social media page. This is more like the old family photo album concept and you will find you are far more authentic about what you post and why.

Think back to when you were a child, did your parents rush out, knock on their neighbours’ and friends’ doors, showing them every outfit and action that you were engaged in and ask them if they ‘liked’ it? Of course they didn’t, and that’s my point.

Activity junkies:

The other side of this coin is the activity junky parent, or helicopter parent who puts their child into every possible extra curricula activity in the belief/hope that they will become a star at something and then uses this plethora of activities as social currency. Ask yourself how much after work activity you would want to take on? Relaxation and ‘normalisation’ time needs to be programmed into your children’s lives. If you show your child that you are a taxi driver, then that is how you will be treated later as they become used to having you organise their timetables and drive them from A to B not to mention never having any down time to breath and live.

How you dress them will also have a profound effect on your wallet. There is a ‘designer’ dress code in many of the local schools here but that hasn’t originated with the children themselves, it has only been perpetuated by them. It was started by some parents dressing their children as ‘mini me’ and then the rest started playing ‘keeping up appearances’. When your child comes home and says they ‘need’ a particular brand of……… because ‘every one else has it’ you need to nip it in the bud immediately and stand firm. It is not a particular brand of backpack that will help your child attain higher grades!

Once again, in the light of the recent terrorist attacks it is helping your children focus on staying strong and resilient that will have the most impact. It is easy on the Riviera to get caught up in the glam and glitz and to forget that there are many other activities that will help focus your children on how to cope with the tougher issues. The Monaco Outward Bound programme is a perfect example of this and this summer alone, 34 children benefited from adventure courses designed to build their self confidence, fulfil their potential and help them bounce back after setbacks.

Taking your children to fancy restaurants, on yachts and buying them designer apparel seems fun at the time but the longer lasting effects will come from helping them gain a perspective on how to cope in the real world when they set foot outside the confines of the Riviera.

Single parent behaviour:

How you act as a single parent is also a tough one. There are many one-parent families on the Riviera and of course it’s much harder for the parent (nearly always the mother) to know what behaviour is appropriate once they are back on the ‘dating’ market. I have gone more deeply into this issue in previous articles but suffice it to say that a softly, softly approach is the best one. It’s not easy in this part of the world when your income and status takes a dive following divorce and many of your ‘couples’ friends no longer seem to want you around. Neither does it work to go out and act as if you were footloose and fancy free when you have all the pressure of bringing up a family to cope with. For more support on this one it can be helpful to take some life coaching sessions to ease behaviour back into perspective.

Working mothers:

Being a working mother is a great behaviour model for your children, it gives your daughters a female role model to follow and shows them that there is more to life than ‘ladies who lunch’ and seeking out a wealthy husband. It helps your sons gain a wider perspective on girls’ abilities to fulfil many roles and will help them become better brothers, boyfriends and husbands. Today research has shown us that girls who have successful working mothers will be more ambitious, higher achievers, more entrepreneurial and not only go on to have successful careers but will have a higher level of self-belief. You may ‘feel’ that you don’t spend enough time with your children but as long as you plan carefully so that when you are not working you are doing things together or relaxing together, you will find that the benefits of working far outweigh the drawbacks. Your behaviour towards your children will positively outstrip that of stay-at-home mothers who quickly become bored once the novelty of the new baby has worn off!

Behaving as a ‘parent’ is a never easy but if you can avoid the social media ‘keeping up appearances’ traps, the superficiality of the glitz and the glam and strive for a happy medium of enjoying the best of what life has to offer down here whilst opening up ‘character building’ opportunities for your children, you will be able to anchor yourselves in a behavioural reality. The true key is recognising the difference between the artificial and the authentic.

If you would like to discuss life coaching sessions with Judy she can be reached on: judy.churchill@orange.fr, by message on Facebook: ‘Eloquence Languages and Translations for International Communication’ page or see www.judychurchill.com

Tuesday, 1 December 2015    Section: General Articles    Author: Judy Churchill
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