Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Teachable Moments: Approachable Parenting "How to talk to you kids about...."

Teachable Moments: Approachable Parenting "How to talk to you kids about...."

In a blink, my youngest child has morphed from this innocent creature we call a child, into a mysterious alter ego who stands looking at me with no longer an inquisitive eye, but a sneering death stare. It’s almost my worst nightmare…it’s a tween! Not a kid and not a teen, but a very confusing time when the body and brain is on fire with hormones and changes! It would be remiss to say that it doesn’t get worse, as this is just a prequel to the dreaded teen years. 

As a parent it is thrilling and devastating watching your sweet, naive child grow into a young women overnight! How did we evolve from picking out My Little Pony underwear to bras with actual cup sizes? I begrudging let go of the days of writing notes from the tooth fairy, seeing the look of joy on her face  as she holds a shiny silver dollar in her hand like it’s worth millions. I want to strangle “prepubescence” in its wicked manipulative state, and beat it to a bloody pulp…no pun intended. Since there is no stopping this monster taking over my child, I devise a plan that will allow me to manage it. A plan for my child to learn not to be afraid of it. At the ripe age of 10, in the 5th grade, I knew it was getting close to the time that all innocence would fade away. Sure enough by the summer after, we had our first “inappropriate video” come up one of our electronic devices. My daughter searched “twerking” after hearing the buzz word from conversation amongst, adults no less. If you don’t know what twerking is, Google can provide you the answer, and more. Go ahead type it in now...it will help support my point that with less than 3 or 4 clicks on the Internet, with even an innocent search, is a source for all things good, bad, and ugly. She learned about twerking and much much more. In less than just a few clicks, twerking will take you to some pretty illicit pictures to some very illicit videos. I know you’re all thinking “well if you had parental controls that wouldn’t happen” and let me be the first to tell you, parental controls do not provide all the safety net you would think. In our case, it was an iTouch that lead to the illicit video through the app Pinterest (more on this to follow).  We thought we had the devices all locked up tight, but alas there are about so many worm holes in that damn device and our kids (globally speaking) know how to find them. It’s not that our kids are deviant or unruly…they are curious and smart. I don’t believe my daughter was at fault for this situation. She didn’t know she would find pornography (she didn’t know it existed at the time), but she fell prey to her curiosity and her curiosity won. I knew in this moment I had to be an open, honest parent. I decided right then and there that I would not lie. I would provide her the facts and give her the support she needed to understand what she saw, changes going on, and how to move forward from there. 
Lessons learned: Kids learn the hard way too. Sadly when it came to twerking, I was not available to her to ask the question or my daughter didn’t feel I was approachable to ask.  Guess who was available for questioning? GOOGLE. This situation gave birth to a new parent-child relationship. Approachable parenting, or what I like to think of as preventative parenting. Those moments where your gut tells your kid has a question and isn’t asking, or you have the gut feeling to get it in your kids head before someone else does. Concepts like separation, divorce, Santa Claus, sex, the friend with two mommy’s are difficult to broach. 

Would you rather your kids learn about them:
A)        On the school bus form the obnoxious older sibling of your kids best friend?
B)        Their friend who cries to them on the playground their parents are breaking up?
C)        Google
D)        Textbook in 6th grade health class?
E)        A parent or guardian who has the good sense to tell them the truth, and who love them?

Answer: E. My best parental advice is you do the talking, and talk openly and talk OFTEN! Don’t rely on anyone else to educate your child on the greatest lessons on life. Surprisingly, kids are willing to talk and want to talk about these heavy topics. Both my personal experience with my kiddos, and professional experience in counseling have proved this to be true. Research has indicated, time and time again, that open and regular communication to our kids about sex, sexually transmitted disease, condoms, drug use etc. result in less risky behaviors than over those kids who do not have someone who communicates openly. Don’t believe me, read it yourself: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/the-facts-parent-child-communication

A great series of books by Robie Harris can help with all these hard issues. It’s Perfectly Normal, It’s So Amazing, and It’s Not the Stork are just a few of my favorites. I learned the birds of the bees from “Where Did I Come From” by Peter Mayle. It was great for teaching the basic fundamentals of how babies are made…but honestly that is the easy part. The hard stuff is puberty, hormones, gender stereotypes, masturbation, pornography, wet dreams, relationships, intimacy, when to wait, and LGBTQ questions. Robie Harris books will guide you and your child through this process with developmental messages that are healthy, humorous, and appropriate. Don’t make it a big deal, but make it a priority.

*Parental control tip: Apple products have a control setting in which you can set up apps by age. This is a good start to only allowing your kids age appropriate material. Even though we blocked the internet from our kids devices, we didn’t block it. Most apps have the ability to access the internet. Pinterest, an app we allowed under my account (so I can see what is pinned) has the ability to open a window and search the WIDE WORLD WEB at your heart’s content. This was one loop hole I was unaware of, and I am an avid Pinterest user.