Posted by: coachingparents | October 29, 2008

How Do We Protect Our Children’s Innocence?


By Tara Paterson

Last night I attended a fantastic presentation in Fairfax County, VA about Internet Safety.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as I am about to launch an Enrichment Program at our middle school, educating parents about the issues our tweens and teens face; especially technological ones.  It used to be so much simpler when all parents had to worry about was sex, drugs and rock and roll.  To them and their day, that was a lot, but what we as parents face today is an even greater challenge, because there isn’t a way to control or even manage the onslaught of information our kids are exposed to.

The organization who gave the presentation is Enough Is Enough (www.enough.org) and their mission is to “Make the internet safer for children and their families.”  The tools and resources they have compiled for parents over the past two years is invaluable; the intensity of the information is scary; and the message is critical to the safety of our children and their future.  So what can you do as a parent to be the first line of defense for your child?

I used breakfast time this morning to communicate with my oldest son about some of the things I learned about, at last night’s presentation.  I hadn’t planned to discuss it first thing, but to my surprise he was interested and attentive to the information I had to share.  One thing I learned is that 7 out of 10 youth have been exposed to some form of inappropriate content and 79% of it is viewed in the home.  My son confided he has seen an image while at a friend’s house and luckily, he didn’t feel ashamed or scared to tell me. Fortunately, I am a naturally intuitive person and can assess his energy to know if he is being honest with me and I felt strongly that he was.  I reassured him it is totally normal for a young person to want to see a naked woman (or man) and when approached in a healthy manner there is nothing wrong with the desire to know or understand more about how the sexual body works.  My husband also shared an experience he had as a young boy of about 8 or 9 while snooping in his dad’s closet; he stumbled upon some dirty magazines.  He was genuinely scarred from the experience and added some depth to our conversation by sharing how the images distorted the way people are meant to engage naturally with one another. 

Parents fear having these conversations with their children either out of their own embarrassment or discomfort about their children having knowledge about “sex.”  The problem is, they do “know” about sex and have access to information about it at their finger tips and what they can’t easily find an answer to they will gladly ask a stranger who will be more than happy to provide an answer for them and often not in the manner in which a parent would approve of.

  • The first line of defense a parent can rely on starts with the bond and connection they establish with their child.  Children who don’t have trust with a caregiver are more vulnerable than children who are connected.  Brain development research proves that children who connect deeply with someone will receive messages in their brain that create pathways for healthy developmental function and the way the brain interprets a healthy relationship is through closeness.  If that closeness (or connection) does not exist, there is room for vulnerability.
  • Second is the need for parents to become educated about what their tweens and teens are exposed to or have access to.  Just because a child tells you they aren’t doing something doesn’t mean it’s true.  Pay attention to their actions or behavior or what I like to call- tuning into your child (using your intuition).  There is no one better equipped to read your child than you and unfortunately, often times the warning signs appear well before the situation escalates out of control.  Educate yourself about social networks, texting, IMing, and other forms of online activity.  If you aren’t aware of the potential dangers your children will face, how will you know how to respond.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to be the parent.  Often times we work hard to be our child’s friend when what they need is someone who will establish boundaries and be their parent.  We’ve discussed the importance of boundaries many times before and it’s one way kids know their parents love and care for them.  Ask questions, set limits, be invasive if the situation warrants; take back your authority as the experienced adult in the house, but always remember to be respectful, listen and encourage your child to be open and honest with you about whatever they need to talk about. The fact is kids are going to be curious and they will find away to satisfy their curiosity.  As parents, we need to teach them how to manage the information they receive so they can make the right choices.  Turning a blind eye isn’t the answer and protecting them from everything isn’t the answer either. 

Your children need you to protect them; they need you to listen to them and to hear what they say; and they need you to be their advocate for healthy lifestyle choices!

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Responses

  1. Simply great.Really very good blog for parents.Because every parents want to give a good and healthy lifestyle to their children’s and your blog is going to help them i think so…


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