Once upon a time, not so long ago (only a couple of weeks, actually) in a land that is exactly where I live, a teenage child got caught doing things thousands of other children have done, world -wide, a thousand times over. This child, though otherwise a good kid, made some poor choices, and had to suffer consequences… grounding, loss of privileges, loss devices and of course, loss of social media.
Because of said unruly behavior, this mom decided to see what else she didn’t know about her child’s life. You see, this mom was an involved mom. This mom thought she knew the friends, and the activities, and the places of usual presence. This mom pushed for good grades, hard work, kindness, good behavior, clean rooms, and high aspirations through hopes and dreams. This mom was a good mom. This mom was there for her kids and thought she paid enough attention. And still, this mom missed some things. And in this time, with this child, this parent learned. She learned, and she shared…
1. Be very aware of “the friends” and listen to what other people have to say about them. Know who your child is associated with, and know that any stories you hear, in whole truth or not, come from somewhere. Listen to the stories and make your own judgments. Use your parental gut, and know that’s it ok to restrict your child’s access to the time spent with certain people.
2. Know that kids are growing up at double the pace (if not faster) than we did as children. Barbies and toy cars disappear faster than they used to. Children are not aware, beyond their own narcissistic tendencies, that they have their whole lives to be an adult, and they are choosing to leave behind simple childhoods in exchange for adult behavior.
3. Children tell half truths and are experts at lip service to tell you what you want to hear in order to get what they want. I am sure my child is an expert negotiator and defense lawyer, and it began YEARS ago. Be a better arbitrator and prosecutor. Be okay with saying “no”. They won’t hate you forever despite their words.
4. Check your child’s social media and devices. This is a sticky one. It invades privacy and places a cautious dynamic of trust between parent and child. Care less about that, care more about knowing what activity your child participates in and keeping your child safe. Do research on current popular applications and know what is on your child’s phone. There are a thousand articles, sites, and links to every app, how to use them , including the dangers. Get educated and then decide the amount of information that is right for you to know. Children are being bullied, becoming bullies, sharing photos, and having conversations that may shock you. Learn what side of the fences your child stands on, and then for heaven’s sake… talk to them about it.
5. Spend some time at your local police department and ask questions. Know what today’s drug of choice is, know what it looks like. Listen to the knick names, know what’s out there. You will be shocked, I promise.
6. Know that no matter how involved you are, you may miss something your child is into. It happened with our parents and their parents, and probably the parents before them. We are parents, we are a community. Lean on each other. Instead of passing judgment on another’s parenting, share stories, experiences, and offer to help. Do not fall into “keeping up with the Jones’s”, “not my child” syndrome, or worry of judgment.; just be a good parent. It’s not simple, it’s not easy, but in the end, it is worth it. When your child is 35, and calls you to apologize for their childhood behavior as they deal with the same things with their own child, you will nod in satisfaction and gratitude.
7. Above all else, practice love – tough, unconditional love.
Eventually, with hard work, perseverance, patience and yes, love, we will all live happily ever after.
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