Wednesday, August 28, 2013

After School Safety: Teaching kids to get home safely.

One of our biggest concerns, as parents with school restarting, is safety.  The media bombards us with horrifying possibilities of attempted child abductions on a weekly basis.  And honestly, even with out the help of the news, I am slightly paranoid when it comes to my children walking home from the bus after school.  My daughter had an incident last year where a parent followed her home while she and her siblings walked from the school bus stop.  It may sound benign to some but gone are the days where the whole neighborhood watches out for the wellbeing of the school kids.  Additionally, this parent was not a friend or even an acquaintance.  I did not and still do not know what she looks like.  It is this reason that I called the school and the police.  Scarier still is the fact that my cell phone toten tween did not call me until well after everything was over and done.  This made me rethink what and how I teach my children to respond in an emergency.  So here are some helpful tidbits that may potentially help our kids respond appropriately when they are traveling without parents.

Be Aware - Remind kids not to tune out the world with their headphones.  We have a "1-ear" policy in my house and while traveling.  If they want that surround sound effect they have to use room speakers instead of earbuds/headphones. To reinforce this set up a practice scenario in which they test their ability to respond correctly with headphones on. 

Be proactive- The biggest mistake my daughter made was assuming that the parent following her was "ok." I gave her a few alternative endings to that scenario and had her come up with a few on her own. The result being that she is to use her phone to call me at the first sign of uneasiness. I explained that a situation like that only seems "ok" because she was viewing it from a child's eye. My job as her parent is to paint a bigger picture; so call me and let me help decipher the danger level.


Listen to that inner voice - Kids are perceptive but depending on their level of moral development they can over look their instincts. Your kids want to please adults and stay out of trouble so their first impressions of danger may be over shadowed by what they preceive to be the greater threat - disappointing us, their parents. So, I reforce daily with my children - if it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. Our 8 yr old calls it his spidey sense. I also ensure them that my first response to questionable situations will be calm and non-judgemental. THEN, I actually remain calm and non-judgemental when the occasions occur.

I know that as parents everthing I've said is common sense.  Unfortunately,  with the time demands of everyday life we "think" we reinforce these tips with our kids but the reality is something entirely different.  Repetition and reinforcement is the only way for it to become second nature. If first responders need to do it, shouldn't our children?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The dreaded three letter word - S.E.X.

What parent do you know is excited about discussing those infamous three letters with their pre- or fully pubescent child? S.E.X. and all of its real and imaginary horrors scares the mess out of parents.  Whether it is our imaginations that run wild or the fact that we secretly wish for our babies to remain babies for ever, the idea of our children going through this particular rite of passage is horrifying.  Well, like storm clouds in the distance or the morning sun, the inevitable is just that...inevitable.  So how do you handle it in the age of cyber accessibility?

My first suggestion is to be fearless. Our kids are like predators that smell fear on us.  All your discomfort does is make them feel embarrassed and unwilling to open up.  Regardless of a child's moral upbringing, curiosity and physiological urges will arrive whether we as the parents are prepared or not.  So again, I say be fearless.  Practice your "game face" so that you can address the topic matter of factly vs. like a lecture.  Try to remain impartial and present yourself as your child's personal "wiki" source.  They need to feel like no matter how crazy and even inappropriate the topic, they can come to you for a straight answer. No one benefits from our sons believing they can get a girl pregnant by sitting in a pool or our daughters thinking they oral sex isn't sex. Whatever the question, remember, if we, the parents, aren't willing to answer it, they WILL find an answer somewhere.

Secondly, give straight answers.  If you have a questionable sexual past and you are afraid you may be asked a question you DON'T want to answer, prepare a response; make sure it's honest and straightforward.  The last thing you need is for the truth to come out at an inopportune time and destroy your credibility.  There is nothing wrong with saying that you will table your answer until your son or daughter is more mature.  Straightforward also means explaining sex to your teens/tweens the way it actually is not the way you want them to envision it. There are no birds or bees involved, no matter how you spin it.  Oprah had a marvelous episode that I watched with my oldest two children. This video took the pressure off of me:
On the same page there is a link to a parent's guide with diagrams to help with clarifying questions. Remember knowledge is power. We empower our child so that they have the wherewithal to make the best decision when faced with the inevitable.

Lastly, insert your moral code into the discussion.  Explaining the mechanics of sex does not mean you are endorsing it. I explained to me children what sex is to curb their curiosity to a certain degree.  I then, explained what it means to have sex, i.e. the social, emotional, and moral costs vs. benefits. I would hope that your children can see in you the best form of a healthy relationship so that you, and not TV, their friends, or the internet, can be an example of the benefits of waiting.  We can't simply tell our children to wait without SHOWING why they should.

I'm Back!!

As you may have noticed, I abruptly stopped writing on my blog a couple of years ago.  Without going into a long winded explanation, I would just like to say it has been a long, strange trip; one that has landed me back on the pages of a new and improved TEENS, TOTS, & TWEENS.  I am so happy to have a renewed, energized outlook on all things related to education, children, and parenting.  I can't wait to share these thoughts with you and hear yours in return.  TEENS, TOTS, & TWEENS will be going through some renovations along the way.  So please check back often or better yet subscribe. Here's to a fresh new start!!!