Kids Safety Series (Week 5 of 6): Prepare for Independence
How will I know when my child is ready to take on more independence and responsibility? How will I know they are ready to take on a task with confidence & success? Should I give more internet freedom? If so, when? Like many things, because each child, family, & set of dynamics vary from one household to the next, the answer to all of these is, “It depends.”
As parents, it’s easy to get caught up in “helicopter parent” mode at times. We love our children & desire to spare them the grief we have seen in others or have experienced for ourselves. We’ve touched on how to Educate, Protect, & Be a Safe Place in previous newsletters in this series. The next step requires all of them working together as we prepare our child for independence. Truth is, as much as we may want to, we won’t always be there to shield, protect, & educate. Our kids are growing up whether we like it or not. They will begin making their own adult decisions, good or bad. The time we have to impress on them the hard-earned wisdom we’ve gained is ticking away. We don’t want to be overburdensome & see our efforts backfire as children who may feel suffocated rebel the first chance they get. We also don’t want to give them too much freedom too soon & go on about the rest of our life, only to realize little Johnny got into a LOT more trouble than we imagined could be possible. Where is the balance?
What does preparing your child(ren) look like in your family? We’ve hit on some things to warn our kids about in previous newsletters in this Kids Safety series, but warning them & making them aware of the dangers out there is not enough. I liken it to teaching my children to cross the street. What are the steps as they age? Well, first I carry them before they can walk. Then I hold their hand. At this point, I am also pointing out the dangers of cars. Even today I went over this with my three-year-old. I know that I am dealing with life & death potential if I don’t handle this right, so I am straight forward with my kids. I tell them they can get seriously injured, have to go to the hospital, or even die. I tell them why a car is more likely to hit them than Mommy (because they are smaller than the windshield of the car). I even discuss with them someone I know who walks with a limp because when she was little, a man speeding by a schoolbus ran her & her little brother over. This killed her little brother & permanently impaired her ability to walk. I am looking for long term safety; I not only want my children to be safe in the here & now, but also in the long term, whether I am with them or not. As my children age & show necessary caution & maturity, I give them a little more freedom. They do not always need to hold my hand, but they can walk near me. If they veer from my instructions, I pull back to the previous step & try again, later. I can actually still recall the moment I eventually allowed my son to cross the street without me to use the restroom inside. Well, I say street, but really it was a mostly empty parking lot. But it’s a start! As I did, my eyes stayed glued onto him, but when they weren’t on him they were scanning for potential danger of oncoming cars. First, I honestly didn’t let him go until I had scanned to see no cars were coming in the first place. Then I watched as he followed the steps we had used for years: stopping, looking left & right for cars, crossing swiftly, not dawdling about or getting distracted.
I believe the same approach we use to prepare our children for independence in crossing the street can translate to safety in other areas, including navigating the streets of the internet & other sticky situations. First, & maybe most importantly, our mindset needs to be on the longterm success of our children in addition to their short term success & safety. Mommy won’t always be there to hold Johnny’s hand as he’s surfing the internet, playing with friends on mobile devices, or spending time with relatives. Camp. School & schoolbus. Community or church group. There are so many places with potential for danger that sometimes we take for granted as being safe. As the pornography epidemic increases, so is child-on-child sexual abuse. These children reenact what they see in pornography, not understanding the trauma they are experiencing & inflicting. Not only do we need to warn & educate our children about the possible dangers they may encounter from people they may not anticipate, but we must also prepare them to think through to know how to handle these potentially overwhelming situations.
~What do I do if I see someone’s private parts?
~What do I do if someone asks to see or touch my private parts?
~What do I do if someone asks me to touch their private parts?
~What do I do if someone sends me an explicit text? A sext? A message asking for my personal information?
~What should I do if a sexually explicit scene comes on tv/youtube/movies/etc.?
~What should I do if something I see or experience makes me feel uncomfortable?
~What should I do if I experience something that I think may be wrong, but it feels good?
~I want to feel accepted among my peers. What if looking at pornography with them will help me fit in?
~What’s the harm, again?
Here’s an excerpt from Good Pictures Bad Pictures that’s helpful in reminding kids of the possible longterm effects of viewing pornography: “Many scientists now believe that looking at pornography can affect the brain in the same way as taking a strong drug. Using pornography may even shrink part of the brain!...You already know never to try illegal or harmful drugs, but in some ways pornography can be worse. Although a drug addiction is very hard to overcome, at least the body has a way of getting rid of the drugs within a few days. Unlike drugs in the body, the brain can’t get rid of pornography. Once you see those shocking pictures, they will always be there for you to remember.”
Authors Kristen Jenson & Dr. Gail Poyner offer a C.A.N.D.O. plan of action:
C – Close my eyes immediately
A – Always tell a trusted adult
N – Name it when I see it (“That’s pornography!”)
D – Distract Myself
O – Order my thinking brain to be the boss!
Although it is a sad reality that resources like these are necessary, since this is a necessary topic to discuss with our children, how refreshing it is to know we don’t have to fumble through this alone. There are some really great resources out there to help us prepare our kids to “cross the street independently” in this world of vehicles with drivers crazy & dark enough to target our precious children with sexually explicit material & behaviors.
Here’s a couple favorite resources our parent readers have found helpful on this topic:
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids
Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds
What resources have you found helpful to prepare kids for independence? Catch us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to share them with us! Then join us next week as we bring our Kids Safety Series to a close, discussing the need to Recognize the World They Are Inheriting.
In this together,
Brittany , ACircleOfJoy.com