Growing our effectiveness as parents is dependent upon our capacity to be well, to be child focused, and to be a safe harbour for our children. Making our kids feel safe is critical.
The best way to change or improve behavior is to take small steps, achieve your goal, and then move forward. If you have a setback, read adjust your goal and begin again. Don’t give up. Recommit and reward yourself along the way for your successes.
Learning how to protect your kids using:
What does keeping our children safe mean:
Doing what is best for our children’s health and wellbeing –not what is easiest or most popular. In order to protect our children, we need to focus on their safety. We must be proactive about who or what we allow into their live, and when and where.
Some of the most heartbreaking stories from parents and guardians involve the dangers of the Internet. Whether it is cyber bullying, revenge porn, predators, children are being humiliated, injured, and placed in high risk situations. And yet, when parents or guardians are questioned about their rules for safe practices regarding their children’s usage or if they have a Family Media Plan in place, many are surprised or stunned.
Before we turn over any piece of technology to any age child, we must be willing to do the hard work up front. This requires that we find out what the risks are as well as the benefits. We need to know how to implement practices and rules for their usage which will minimize the dangers and educate us on how to intervene if the unthinkable happens.
Several years ago while speaking to an audience on cyber bullying, a parent raised her hand and asked, “Do I have a right to invade my child’s privacy? Should I be checking her texts?” My response was compassionate yet firm. “We have a responsibility to keep our children safe. And, I will show you how to do so with respect and regard for them.” After demonstrating to the audience how to implement a Family Media Agreement, there was relief on their faces.
Let’s begin our exercises:
Ask yourself the following four questions as you make decisions about protecting your children. Then, discuss with your children, age appropriately, how you are making adjustments in your decision-making and why.
- How much do I know about this person, place, thing, activity, etc.? Have I done research and background checks?
- Why am I agreeing to this?
- How will this benefit my children? How will it not?
- Am I willing to commit to monitoring, supervising, or following-up on this person, place, or thing, etc.,and explore how it is affecting my children? If so, what will that commitment look like?
If you have made decisions which you now recognize are not in the best interest of children’s health and wellbeing, it is absolutely permissible to change your mind. Age appropriately, explain to them what you have learned and why you are making adjustments. Children are resilient and respond well when parents and guardians take the time to explain their rationale. Recently during a conversation with a friend who has a daughter in college and a son in middle school, she shared, “When my husband and I realize we’ve really blown it, we tell our kids, ’We made a mistake’. We care about you. We are going to do a do-over’” She laughed and added, “My kids are great about it. They appreciate that we know we are not perfect and that we mess up too.”
Remember, it’s never too late to do a do-over.
The second component to protecting our children is based around the principle of nurturance. Most of us are familiar with the word nurture. It a caring word and a compelling word. Strengthening our nurturing skills means, caring for our children over time–remaining cautious about detaching from them too early while being mindful of their need for independence and autonomy.
Although many animals provide us lessons on how to be nurturing, deer are a perfect example. The adult doe instinctually protects her babies while affording them brief moments of autonomy as they learn necessary survival skills. In the early months after birth, a mother doe stays extremely close to her babies. Although she is leading the way through the grassy terrain searching for food, she remains vigilant keeping a watchful eye on them and on any potential danger. Mother doe are also extraordinarily keen to the dangers of premature exposure to the wilderness, introducing survival elements and foreign environments slowly and cautiously. As her young fawn or buck mature, a mother doe will distance herself further in proximity from her young ones; however, it is clear that keeping them out of harm’s way remains her first priority. At first sight, scent, or sound of an intruder, she signals their departure and secures their safety. As the seasons pass, the young adults saunter through the terrain, cautious but confident on their own. Mother doe eyes them from nearby, still caring over time from afar. Parents and guardians, while reflecting on this metaphor, assess on how you are providing nurturance for your children.
Spend time responding to these questions:
- Do I watch over my children? Do I know where they are, what they are doing, and with whom?
- Did I start out strong in my commitment to nurturance when my children were young and have I sustained that commitment over time? If so, in what ways?
- Have I exposed my children prematurely or allowed unsupervised access too early to a person, place, thing, etc., without considering their safety? Have I adequately prepared them with the appropriate insights and tools to handle potential dangers and possible harm? What areas do I need to address?
These questions are very difficult to answer. Take your time as you think through them and respond. Remember, like any worthwhile program it can be uncomfortable at first as we stretch and strengthen areas we have not worked on before or areas we have let go. Also, remind yourself that we rarely change anything when we are feeling cozy or comfortable in what we are doing. Give yourself permission to allow any guilt, doubt, or discomfort to motivate you to recommit and keep going.
For the next article in this series: How To Meet Kids Emotional Needs: Parenting Series, Part 4
Publishers Notes: Holli Kenley is an American Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of “ Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving from Brokeness to Wholeness” and “Power Down & Parent Up!: Cyber Bulling, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children”