The Obama girls Sasha and Malia head to the White House: How can Michelle and Barack safeguard their marriage and kids in a Twitter world? 10 tips for coping in the fishbowl

I was just perusing the Wealth Report article, 10 Things wealthy parents should leave their kids besides money. It was authored by Peter White. It made me think of the Obamas for some reason, especially their daughters. I don’t think that even on their best day they could ever be properly prepared for the level of scrutiny they are about to undergo as parents and spouses living in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in these times.
I think the best way to safeguard their marriage is to keep a very low profile of it, sort of the way that Laura and George Bush kept their business out of the press. Nothing good can come of the alternative.
As far as the girls, I understand the fascination everyone has with them, and I am sure it is very flattering. But it comes at such a high price and I sure hope that the Obamas are mindful of that and will take pre-emptive steps to avoid having their children exposed in this “twitter” fishbowl and flickr-like transparencies. Nothing good can come of the alternative.
So, about Peter White’s article. It got me to thinking about how to properly care for and parent children like Sasha and Malia. I liked all ten points White  made and I am going to high-jack each of them  in this article:
Necessities: They are going to have the run of the White House, including their very own chef. That is going to be a really cool experience for the girls. But their parents just need to watch the snacks and sweets. Everyone will want to sweeten the girls with treats and what have you and this has to be guarded against so that they stay nice and slim and healthy. And not too much of anything. Like toys or anything. Anything in excess is just bad for children. They should not be spoiled. Spoiled kids are not very interesting actually.
Affection: I don’t think the girls are going to be lacking affection from their mom and dad. They seem to be a very hands on family. I know that Obama and Michelle realize that no matter what, family comes first. No job, not even that of the president of the United States, should usurp the position of one’s family and kids. Not that I think it will. They seem very, very close. It is such a beautiful thing.
Affirmation and support: It is hard to imagine the girls are going to have problems, but I have news for you, they are going to be riddled with angst. Just the amount of attention alone, and the microscope they are put under is enough to stress out a kid. So their parents have to help to keep them grounded, and always let them know that they are there for them, no matter what.
Boundaries: Kids need boundaries. Sasha and Malia are no different. And I think I see that Michelle gets that. She said in an interview that they will still have to make their beds and that is great. Allowing kids to do whatever it is that they want when they want is not love. It is parental apathy and it is poisonous for a child.
Guidance: The girls are going to have all these questions, all these reservations and insecurities. After all, they are still growing and forming. They may feel they know everything, of course. Especially the older one, Malia who may think she is going on 30. But they are still just babies and need their parents’ input and guidance, to help them develop a code of ethics, and behavior and shape their personalities in a healthy way.
Respect: Kids need to be respected. As they roam throughout the White House, it can’t be that they are seen and not heard. They have to know they are home, with mom and dad, even if they are in this extraordinary circumstance. Their feelings count. Their opinions matter. That has to be the message conveyed.
Trust: The kids need to know that they are trusted to act appropriately and in a manner that becomes the upbringing they have received from their parents. They need to know that their parents have expectations of them, and that they can meet those expectations. There has to be consistency too, so that they know what outcome comes from what action.
Forgiveness: No matter how perfect they are and how they behave, they will make mistakes and may even “disappoint” their parents on occasion. They need to know that there is room to do that, and that they will not be chastised forever for any infraction.
Religion and spirituality: The girls are used to attending church with their parents. Obviously, their dad and the pastor had a little falling out. But they should continue to receive religious instruction from some means. It is more important now than ever.
Letting go: Their parents need to be able to let them be themselves and not try to make them into what the parents want to be. If one of the girls wants to be an actress, let her be that. Just not before she’s 16 – or older as far as I’m concerned. I wouldn’t even let them do Miley’s show right now. Let them make an informed decision about what they want, but they would have to wait till they are older to follow through on that.
I just can’t stress enough, though, how important it is to keep those kids out of the public eye. Look at Chelsea Clinton. She went to the Sidwell School like the Obama girls, btw. But even after campaigning with her mother she is able to live a private life today because of the tone the Clintons set for her. Please Mr. and Mrs. Obama, follow suit.  Michelle, don’t give too much access to your children. Please guard against that. Today the public adores them, but what about tomorrow? Who knows?
Oh, and these tips are workable for us regular folks as well as we try to raise our little munchkins to be good, decent citizens.
Originally published January 12, 2009