By Dr. June Stride View more articles
It was one of those rare evenings when the entire Washburn family was home and sitting down to eat together. Usually either Harold Washburn had to stay late at work or one of the kids had sports, music lessons or some after-school activity planned, which meant everyone grabbed dinner whenever they got in. Marguerite Washburn looked out at her husband and kids gathered around the table, feeling pleased that at least once this week they were sharing a meal.
Just as she was pulling the chair out to sit down, the phone rang. "Wouldn't you know?" Marguerite said, more than a little exasperated as she answered the phone.
"Hello. Can I speak to Randy?" some feminine voice asked.
Trying to cover her obvious annoyance at the timing of the call and the interruption from her cherished family meal, Marguerite responded, "Who's calling, please? If you give me your number, I'll have him call you back later."
That accomplished, she hung up the phone and returned to her uneaten meal.
Turning to her athletic and clean cut looking 14-year-old son, she suggested with a grin, "Randy, how about asking your girlfriends not to call at dinner time?"
"Aw, mom, you know I don't want those girls calling me. They're not my girlfriends. They keep bugging me. They want to talk about all kinds of stupid stuff, hinting about me asking them out. I feel like they're pushing me."
Parents frequently are looking for that ideal moment to talk with their teen about some serious choices he/she will be facing. The above scenario is one! Sure, Marguerite might be concerned about the phone call interrupting dinner; also, she might be concerned by frequent unsolicited "girlfriend / boyfriend" calls for her child. But, her major concern probably isn't on either of those annoyances, it's probably focused on the underlying sexual choices that Randy will be called upon to make, too early and perhaps, too unprepared.
Peer (and media pressure) starts early for our kids, maybe as early as elementary school. Pressure to look "grown up" and "cool". Pressure to act "grown up" and "cool". Pressure to know about sex, and even to experiment with sex. Parental concern is fully justified. We are not in a rush to have our kids acting out the latest TV show part or the celebs in the news. We want them to mature knowing how to make healthful choices and wise decisions. What most of us want to know is how we can help make that happen?
Bright Idea: Do not despair about the awesome responsibility of parenting. You might be surprised to know how many other parents are anxious about similar concerns. Make an effort to get to know the parents of your kids' friends. See how, together, you can lighten the burden, and have fun doing it. Invite them to share a "family get-together" for a pizza and a movie, a hike and a picnic, roller-blading or a pot-luck dinner and home video. Role model responsible, fun behavior! For more parenting help, try ed.gov
Has the new millennium, with all the attraction of new technology, made our life less complicated? Amazingly, we have all kinds of electronics to allow us access to the world of information and to provide immediate gratification to our desires, but have they simplified life? There is an underlying assumption that computers, movies, CD players, video games, cell phones etc. will help keep our kids safely occupied while we, as parents work longer and harder to make ends meet. You and I know that is deceptive, especially for impressionable minds, especially for our young people, anxious to appear older.
The computer age has reminded us of the truth of that acronym: GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). If we "give permission" (by not supervising, not monitoring, not giving positive choices), our kids will be watching, hearing and learning from very dramatic media about the joys of sexual promiscuity, of the pleasures of drinking and drugging, and the acceptability of swearing, making racial slurs and even violent behavior. What to do is the question for those of us who envision our child growing healthfully into a thoughtful, considerate, well-informed and well-spoken young adult.
TIPS to promote healthful choices.
Here are 10 critical questions that may help you focus. Each one gives you the opportunity to take another direction, ASAP, if your answer is not in the affirmative.
1. Do you have "open" and honest talks with your child about his/her feelings and concerns? Do you actively listen to what they are saying and not saying?
2. Have you discussed sexual changes with your child? Have you discussed sexual choices with your child? Have you encouraged his/her questions? Do you share your concerns, feelings and values about sexual topics and sexual behavior?
3. Do you know the first and last names of the kids your child calls ˜friends? Have you had conversations with them? Have you spoken to the parents of these friends? Have you attempted to forge an agreement with the parents to ensure safe, wholesome activities in the home and the neighborhood for the kids?
4. Do you know where your child spends his/her after school time and with whom, doing what? Is a responsible adult supervising your child when you are not?
5. Do you know how widespread drugs are in your neighborhood and in your child's school? Does your child talk to you about drugs, the availability, the use and his/her opinion of drugs/drug use? Do you make clear your opposition to drug use? Is your home a drug-free one?
6. Does your child make the connection between sexual choices and consequences? Is your behavior in regard to sex worthy of your child's emulation?
7. Can you and do you discuss the types of movies/TV shows/CD's/magazines/internet sites/video games that may influence your child's thinking and behavior, for better or for worse? Are you a good role model? Is what you watch, read and do appropriate for the kind of values you want your child to have, and/or want your child to think you have?
8. Do you have opportunities for wholesome fun with and for your child and your child's friends? Do you spend time together doing, talking and sharing activities such as outdoor sports, games, religious activities, concerts or community events?
9. Have you had discussions about levels of friendship and dating? Have you shared how you felt about growing up? Do you encourage pre-dating rather than dating and do you arrange or encourage supervised wholesome fun group activities?
10. Do you give your child opportunities to be a part of family decision making, exploring options and considering consequences? Do you encourage conversations about the issues pertinent to preteens and teens' the responsibilities involved in friendship, pre-dating, dating, sex? Have you discussed the potency of non-verbal behavior and allowed him/her opportunities for successfully opposing ideas and being firm about saying "no"?
If most of your answers were in the "yes" category, you are among those too few parents who are well on their way to a comfortable and open relationship with your child. Congratulations. Most of us will not score that well and realize that NOW is the time to improve our communication with our fast-growing preteen/teen. If you are ill at ease discussing sensitive issues about sexual changes and sexual choices, find an easy to read, engaging book to share with your child, one that will guide you both in your discussions. Importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help!