From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Who's watching the kids?
I’m afraid that many of our kids are in trouble. I call
them “our kids” in hopes that more adults will begin to realize that all of us
are parents to the many children of our society. All of us are the role models
for the next generation of adults. That means that 28% of our American
population, who are ages 18 and younger, are looking to us for guidance in how
to succeed in our families, our neighborhoods, and in our workplaces.
Please allow me a senior moment: I remember a
time when boys and girls “dated”. This custom involved a phone call on the
family telephone, an invitation, some amount of parental approval of the plan,
and young men ringing the doorbell prepared for an inspection by the family.
Traditions and customs have changed a great deal over the past several decades.
While change can be very good, many of us have lost sight of our children and
they have been left with some pretty confusing messages.
- Changes have occurred in family rules, roles and
expectations. Childhood has been shortened for many of today’s kids.
High rates of crime, violence, economic turbulence, divorce and dual career
families have forced adolescents to assume grown up family roles at earlier
ages. Today’s adolescents spend more time on their own without adult
supervision, and unfortunately, that makes them more likely to become involved
in sexual relationships at earlier ages or become the victims of sexual
- Family Stability is increasingly rare.
Today’s families come in different shapes and sizes. Five decades of high
divorce rates have created all varieties of single parent households, blended
families, step-families, households with cohabitating adults, and
grandparent-headed households. As adults divorce and move on to other
relationships, children who are left behind usually suffer from the absence of
that parent and are often slow to recover from feelings of grief over the loss
of family and feelings of abandonment. When families change in their
composition, there can be much confusion over new guidelines for behavior.
Each newly shaped family needs to work together to adapt to their changing
circumstances and learn to function as a new team.
- Our children are growing up in a “no holds barred”
world. All around them, our kids observe adults acting responsibly,
irresponsibly, or inappropriately. Adolescents imitate the adults around
them, so it is our job to be good role models. When children lack proper
guidance, they can get into all kinds of trouble. The Center for Disease
Control has reported that the rate of sexually transmitted disease infection
and transmission is higher in the United States than in any other
industrialized nation. Of those adolescents who are sexually active, less than
half report using any form of protection or birth control. Young people who
lack guidance and stability at home are more likely to try filling the voids
in their lives through unhealthy and high-risk behaviors.
- Yet, they still look to their parents for guidance.
Contrary to popular belief, today’s children value their parents’ opinions
when it comes to matters of smoking, drinking, spending money and sexual
behavior. But many parents avoid such topics. Talking about these topics makes
some adults uncomfortable because it taps into their feelings of guilt and
shame. But what’s wrong with telling our children about mistakes we have made?
Doesn’t that help them develop some important tools for navigating their own
experiences? All of us have learned hard lessons in life, and while we know
that our kids have to make their own mistakes, we might be able to save them a
It is true that each of us sees the world
through our own eyes. But perhaps we need to see the world through our
children’s eyes. What are they learning from our behavior? Are we demonstrating
the level of ethics we want to see in them? If we want our kids to: “do as we
say”, we must also be willing to stick to the guidelines. Our kids are depending
upon us for a healthy future. This may be a good time to take inventory of what
we are teaching them.
©Copyright, 2004, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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