Technology – Just as there are age restrictions on toys for our tots, there are restrictions on technology and devices we give our children access to. We live in a digital world and while we can’t keep them from learning how the Internet works, we have to make sure they don’t get caught up in that web either. Giving kids or teens access to technology goes hand in hand with guidelines on limits, expectations and, of course, passwords. I call them “tech checks.”
Kids are going to misuse and make mistakes. Blame it on the brain, but use these mistakes as teaching opportunities. At MASK, we have technology contracts for families to use, as well as a series of Reset 2 Protect contract consequences to help get them back on track while eliminating messages that may feel judgmental and shameful.
Drugs – Today, children are faced with having to resist so much more than we did—and much more often. There are far too many available means of escapism in the form of drugs, and they are much easier to obtain. The drug dealer is no longer the person in the shadows in the dangerous part of town. Drugs can be easily purchased online, from the friend down the street (yes, even in the seemingly “nice” part of town) and from our own medicine cabinets.
It is becoming more and more difficult for children and young adults to “just say no.” So who’s going to help them say “yes” to their future?
I believe kids need a reason, an out, to remove themselves from compromising situations. Parents can provide their children with that out and eliminate the pressure of having to think quickly on their feet for a reason not to participate in drug use.
“Mom, honestly, it makes me feel bad when you drug test me,” my oldest son said calmly to me after the last test I give him. While I was proud he shared that with me in that moment, I am sad we live in times that require these measures in the first place. I remind him that “why” I test him has nothing to do with him or whether I trust him, and everything to do with me as a parent. I explain that it’s my job to do whatever I feel is necessary to protect him.
This is the “out” I provide my kids. I drug test. I need my children to know that I do as I say and if they’re in a dark place where their decision-making skills are being tested, they know deep down that I really will drug test them. They now can say, with 100 percent certainty, “Sorry…my parents drug test me.”
The pressure teens and young adults face is huge and the price is too high. It only takes one time for a bad drug decision to lead down a devastating road. As much as I’d like to shield them—and I wish I could make decisions for them—I can’t. All I can do is educate my children on the risks and consequences, help strengthen their decision-making skills, and provide them with enough ammo to navigate their world.
Friends – As your young child makes friends, they are going to be spending more time with people who are strangers to you. As a parent, it’s only natural to want to make sure their standards are the same as yours, and that your child will not be exposed to anything that could harm them.
Before your child goes to a friend’s house, communicate your standards and expectations to your own children and to the friend’s parents. Let them know where you stand on issues such as use of media; alcohol, tobacco or other drugs; appropriate and inappropriate activities; where it’s OK to play; and whether you’re comfortable with other people being in the home (relatives, older siblings, friends visiting the parents, etc.).
Many parents feel uncomfortable broaching such subjects with other parents. However, most parents feel relieved when they’re told, “I understand. I feel the same way.” Setting up expectations ahead of time can assure peace of mind, and make the experience more positive for everyone.
As children move into middle school and high school years, they begin to have many new influences in their lives. Their once innocent outlook is questioned, as well as their sense of style and who they befriend. Don’t be surprised to see major shifts in the movies they watch and the music they listen to.
As your teen develops a new identity, they may challenge the way things have always been done in your household and may not seek your advice as much. You’ll find them hiding out in their bedrooms, spending endless hours texting and on social media, and start hanging out with friends, some of whom you’ve never heard of or met before.
One of the best ways to continue to be an influence your child’s life is to stay involved. By getting to know your child’s friends, you can gain some insight into the relationships your child is involved in—and keep an eye on those relationships to make sure that they stay positive.
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