Most of us look back on the “good old days” remarking to ourselves that today’s younger generation not only have it easier than we did but that they also seem less appreciative of their circumstances than we were. Maybe a few of us grumble even more about modern behavior standards we couldn’t possibly have got away with in our day!
But, you know, today’s youngsters face a whole lot more challenges than we encountered: more demands on their time, more peer pressure to act like everyone else, and, undoubtedly, more dangers – from potential online stalkers to casual encounters with drugs, alcohol and sex.
It’s so tough to know how to strike the right balance of discipline and guidance to maximize what we all want – kids who are happy and successful on their own terms with their lives. The final outturn sometimes is beyond our control and, as responsible parents or guardians, we find we just want to be able to say we did our best by them.
Changing ideas about what’s right and wrong in parenting skills make the challenge tougher, but it seems there are some clear principles about how to protect our children and what to do when thing go wrong. We”ll summarize them here.
Protection from predators: The same kids’ rule we were taught years ago applies today: Never talk or get into a car with strangers, no matter what they say. And never do things even with people you know, that you sense is dangerous or wrong. Make an excuse to leave and seek help.
Internet safety rules: These days, some of those predators are “invisible” – online. Children are more trusting, so you have to teach them to be skeptical about claims others make about themselves. With pre-and early teens, make it clear you plan to monitor their activities – and do so. You can get software to help you do this. Unfettered Internet access is potentially dangerous and you should negotiate online time and activity restrictions.
Avoiding temptations: Once-taboo subjects about drugs, alcohol and sex are now an absolute must for discussion with your children. Realize, you can’t shield them from these temptations; they have to know how to deal with them. In turn, you must know how to spot problems before they escalate. A good starting point for both is the Child Development section of the Government’s Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov)
Bullying: Most youngsters are involved in bullying at some stage – either as perpetrators (though you won’t suspect this) or victims. Have regular, probing conversations with your children on the subject and if you discover it, seek help. Great info here: http://www.stopbullying.gov/
Road and life skills: Wow, you may think, that’s a whole training manual in itself but I can distill it down to one simple guideline: Set the example you want your kids to follow. You may not think so, but as you drive, eat, drink, talk, play, interact, they’re watching you and learning.
We’re all different from each other – both kids and parents. The important thing is to try to maintain an open and honest relationship, and to seek help when you need it – for example from school, professional counselors, parenting groups or simply trustworthy friends. Parenting is a tough job and there’s certainly no shame in seeking support.