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It's an old story (or at least a common complaint) — the minute you pick up the telephone, your preschooler magically appears by your side in dire need of your time and attention. Although ideally he could learn the fine art of leaving you alone when you're on the phone, in reality the accommodation will have to come from you. Besides, who can blame him? Preschoolers hate it when their parents are preoccupied with something other than them. It's an unwelcome reminder that they're not always the center of your world, and a shock for someone who's used to having your undivided attention.
Particularly if you've been away from him all day, try to keep phone conversations to a minimum. Your preschooler's craving your attention and if you give it to the phone instead of him, he'll feel he's not as important to you as the person on the other end of the line. Emergencies aside, now isn't the time to become engrossed in a 30-minute breakdown of your sister-in-law's vacation. If you've been with your child all day and he isn't desperately craving your time, on the other hand, you should be able to chat for a while without upsetting him.
When the phone rings, give your preschooler something to occupy him, like blocks or a book, and tell him you're going to talk on the phone now, but will do something with him when you 're off. As you talk, keep an eye on your youngster. If he starts getting impatient or upset, tell the caller you'll get back to her after your little one's asleep, and hang up. If your preschooler starts fidgeting right away, break from your call to say, "I know you don't like it when Mommy's on the phone, but sometimes I have to talk to people for a little while. I'll be with you soon." This has the added benefit of letting the caller know you need to get off. Just be sure to keep your promise and give your child your undivided attention as soon as you're done. And don't feel bad about using your answering machine to screen calls — it's a parent's best friend.