Kids Safety Series (Week 4 of 6): Be a Safe Place
Kids are naturally curious. It’s a beautiful thing, really. My daughter just turned 3 & has fully entered the “Why?” stage. If you’ve ever had or been around kids this age for any length of time, you may remember how sometimes that curiosity can drive even the most patient person nuts some days! Even in the crazy three million, six hundred sixty-five thousand, three hundred twenty-seven “Why?”s in the first few waking hours of the morning, before you’ve even had a chance to finish that now cold cup of coffee, & your eyes begin bulging out of your head, & your head might even begin this little crazy twitch thing to the side from trying to keep up with all the words & questions coming out of this tiny little being that only a few short years prior was silently gurgling away in the womb *breath*….yes, even then, their curiosity is truly a beautiful thing.
If you know me, it doesn’t take long to find out I. Love. Kids. I love seeing the world through their eyes. I love teaching them & getting to see the lightbulb click over their head, their eyes go wide & their mouths drop open at the wonders they take in. And truly, there are wonders to be discovered! So many little things our adult minds can overlook or take for granted…to a child, they are a gem & a treasure. Unfortunately, not all the world is structured to honor a growing child’s natural curiosity.
Pornography is a distortion of the true beauty of creation. Even Time magazine touts porn as “so unrealistic—a literal ‘perversion’ of real human interactions—that it can endanger kids’ ability to have a healthy relationship with their body and with sexual partners.” Pornography is not healthy for anyone, but it is especially dangerous to the developing mind of a child.
We’re in week 4 of our Kids Safety Series. If you’ve missed any, feel free to check these links to get up to date: Intro, Educate, Protect. In the following weeks stay tuned for tips on how to Prepare for Independence & Recognize the World They Are Inheriting. This week we are tackling how to Be a Safe Place for your child.
The question is not if our child will be exposed to pornography, but when they are exposed, how should it be handled? For many of us, especially those who identify as a betrayed wife, the revelation that our child has been exposed or has been looking at pornography can bring with it some very strong emotional triggers, reminders of the deep pain, heartache, & loss that we may have experienced connected to a loved one’s pornography use. If you fall into this category, this newsletter is especially for you. We know that you love your children more than life, itself. You desire to educate & protect them, but you also know that neither of these are a sure-fire way to keep them completely safe from the negative effects of exposure to pornography. You desire to be that safe place that your kids can go to, but you may also question what, exactly, that looks like. Here’s some simple go-to tips to aid your journey with your child.
*STAY CALM. It may help to imagine possible scenarios ahead of time and role-play in your mind how you might respond thoughtfully instead of react emotionally.
*Avoid shaming, criticizing, or overreacting. Take deep breaths. Bite your tongue if you have to. Patience & a sense of humor can go a long way. Some kids goof off when they feel awkward in conversations, but they’re still engaged & listening a lot more than they appear to be.
*Keep open lines of communication, with this & pretty much everything. Don’t expect your child to let you in on this part of their life if you are not engaging in the other parts of life they find important. What’s important to them may not always seem important to us, but your sincere attention reassures them in the feeling that you are safe, interested, & they are important, respected, & loved.
*Tell them often, “You can talk to me about anything.”
*Create a safe environment. I used to be someone who always said I was “fine”, even when something was obviously bothering me (You, too? *Phew.* Glad I’m not alone.). A friend of mine asked me one day how I was, & as I replied my routine, “Fine,” she looked at me with skeptical, yet loving eyes & said something that I’d never heard before & that honestly threw me off guard. She simply replied with kindness in her voice, “Okay, but for the record, I don’t believe you. If or when you want to talk I’m hear for you.” This really did throw me for a loop. Now I had to figure out if I was upset or appreciative. She called me out, but she didn’t come across as judgmental. And she was right. She wasn’t buying the mask I was trying to sell her that so many others either buy as the honest truth or simply take the notice to not discuss it further…even when further discussion may be what I really needed at times. Shortly after this incident, I went back to this friend & let her know what was on my heart. I knew she would be a safe person for me. I want to be that same kind of safe person for my children.
*Ask open-ended questions. As a youth leader, a question I would sometimes ask my students in the quiet, one-on-one moments was, “What’s on your heart?” I found this to be a great open-ended question that cut through the fluff of life. A few times I was asked for clarification if it was someone hearing it for the first time, & I’d explain it just means I’m interested in hearing whatever’s been on their mind or weighing on them.
*LISTEN. Avoid the parental tendency at times to ignore or check-out when kids do open up. You never know how many more opportunities they will grant you to invite you inside their world. Be present & make the most of what they’re already giving you.
*Avoid the temptation to blab off to your friends. Don’t avoid outside help when needed, but be mindful of your child’s feelings & keep things as confidential as possible.
I can recall my 1st real crush in my pre-teen years. I was too embarrassed to tell the boy, but one day I worked up the courage to tell his little sister. Eventually I think my brother found out & mentioned to my mom that I had a crush. I can still remember my mom excitedly bouncing on my bed next to me like she was my best friend wanting the new gossip scoop on who this boy was. I recall feeling a pull 2 ways. On one hand, I was mortified word had gotten to her; on the other hand, I wasn’t sure if maybe she was a safe person to share with. In that moment I chose not to disclose enough information that my mom would know who I was talking about…but I still toyed with the idea of if I would share with her later if she asked me again. Perhaps I would if it were away from my brothers & she didn’t act so over-the-top-freakishly giddy. However, next thing I knew she was on the phone blabbing about this new smidge of information she had to her girlfriend. That may not be a big deal for others, but for this insecure middle-schooler, that was all I needed to seal the deal of my mom officially being an unsafe person to share potentially embarrassing information with. I knew whatever I shared would likely run the rumor wheel between her & her girlfriends, & I did not like the idea of my embarrassment being their entertainment. I know my mom meant no harm, but that was a very sensitive time for me. Something my mom probably never gave a second thought to had significantly altered the potential in our relationship for years to come. I don’t share this story to shame my mom in any way. I’m sure her response wasn’t too abnormal from many moms out there. I share because that’s a memory I will keep to help remind me to be ultra-sensitive to my kids…especially at those vulnerable ages of adolescents. What experiences can you recall when you were your children’s ages?
*Try putting yourselves in their shoes or remember when you were going through similar experiences at their age. Be sensitive to their needs & delicate emotions. We all have things in common. We want to be loved. We want to be accepted. Pornography offers a cheap knock-off to these that may feel like love & acceptance in the moment, but in reality, leave us empty & alone.
*Share your heart with your child. Let them hear how much you love & value them. Tell them how much you believe in them & want what is best for them. A successful career. A healthy marriage. An abundant life. Etc.
*Honesty is the best policy. I’m a firm believer in life that honesty is the way to go. If I ever question that, I simply recall the destruction & hurt that dishonesty has caused me, & the answer is clear. Honesty may be that I don’t feel comfortable or at liberty to share some things, & that’s okay to say, too.
*Give them space. This tip can certainly vary, depending on the situation. If a conversation is necessary due to some concerning information you’ve already received, pressing some may be appropriate at times, but definitely use discretion. As a general rule, it’s helpful to have personal boundaries that recognize your child as their own individual. We desire our children to feel the freedom to share, not to feel pressured or manipulated into sharing info before they are ready. A demanding or pressuring approach in general may very well backfire. That we cannot force our children to relay information we deem important at the moment we desire it, can be a painful reality. This is especially the case if we suspect some type of abuse may be involved.
*Offer an alternative safe person. Sometimes no matter what we do, we may simply not be the person our child is ready to share with. This can also be quite painful to accept. We cannot be all things to our children…it’s takes a village, you know? It can be a lifesaver sometimes to provide another safe person as an alternative for your child to talk with. This can be a spouse, responsible adult, doctor, teacher, therapist, etc. The idea is to ultimately provide the best solution for our child, even if that means it is not us in the moment. And that’s okay.
We’ve discussed pornography in this newsletter, but the same principals can be applied to many other topics in life, whether they are of a sexual nature or otherwise. I hope these tips & experiences can help you as we all navigate these ever-changing waters of parenting in a technological information age.
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In this together,