Recently, I was pleased to take part in a discussion on talk radio out of Paterson, New Jersey. The topic of discussion was “ how to protect your child from becoming prey to child molesters who connect with your child through Chat Lines on the internet”. The truth if that chat lines are only one avenue by which our children become prey to unhealthy, deviant adults. Our job, as parents, is to teach our children to beware of danger no matter what form it takes. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.
Computers are not the problem. Naturally, children seek the approval and attention of adults. Healthy relationships with adults can provide some of the most meaningful relationships in a young person’s life. Growing up, we learn from our teachers and other mentors; we value attention and guidance from adults who we respect. The problem is that some unhealthy adults take advantage of children by pretending to be trustworthy. Our job as parents is to help our children recognize when adults cross the boundaries. We must teach our children to understand that romantic relationships between adults and children are never healthy and never appropriate. As a preventative measure, we can help our children cultivate good friendships with their peers, and to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Get to know your childrens’ friends. Do your children bring friends home? Do you create an atmosphere where your kids’ guests feel comfortable? Part of our parental job description is to get to know our children’s friends. Too many adults adopt a blanket attitude of distrust toward their child’s friends for very shallow reasons. “We don’t trust them because of their hair, their language, their music, their cultural background, their clothes, etc…” But we were kids too, not too long ago, so we should remember that each generation distinguishes itself from others through these affectations. As a parent, don’t let their differences stop you from getting to know these young people. Respect the fact that your kids value their friendships. Friends are precious commodities to all of us. Most of us like to choose our own friendships, and few of us like to be told to end our friendships. Forced to make a choice, many teenagers consider their friends to be more important than family, at least for the moment.
The friends we can see are safer than the friends we can’t see. If you forbid your child from socializing in their own home, they will socialize in other places far beyond your watchful eye. Unfortunately, when kids finally arrive home, some parents interrogate their kids and threaten to drug-test them, instead of talking about drugs and alcohol. Power struggles like these do not strengthen our relationships. As with all of our friendships, we must be respectful of our children if we want respect from them in turn. Other adults will speak to your kids in ways that make them feel important and worthwhile. When kids communicate better with other adults, than they do their own parents, they may choose to keep certain unhealthy relationships a secret. Here’s where the danger begins.
Be an adult who listens! Like their parents, our kids have to learn some things for themselves. The best possible way to know about your kids is to establish the kind of relationship where they like to talk to you. This can only happen when parents stop lecturing and start listening. Even when we think we know the answer to their problem, offering opinions is like doing their homework for them. Like their parents, our kids need to learn certain things for themselves.
As parents, we must earn our child’s trust! Our children watch the way we behave from the moment they are born. They know when we are honest, and they know when we are not. They see how we interact with our friends, and they feel how we interact with them and with our mates. As parents, we must earn the respect and trust of our kids and prove ourselves as credible guides for them in life. Our children are most in danger when we do not communicate and wrestle with issues together. They are most at risk when they need our help but do not trust our opinions. Kids today are no more difficult to talk to than we were at their age. Try the following experiment: If your child is 8 years old, try listening to them as you would have when you were 8 years old. If your child is a teen, listen to them like the person you were in the same teenage year. Your children may be waiting to get to know the real you.
©Copyright, 2004, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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