After having a little scare this week my heart is on high alert and the stir to work with teen parents has been brought to the surface for me again.
I am going to advocate for you to be in your kids business. I am in no way advocating being a full time, hovering, helicopter parent (been there, done that) but I am going to suggest you get in the chopper and take a scenic tour on a regular basis.
So back to what happened this week…
I consider myself pretty savvy parent in the way of technology and knowing what my kids are doing and still this week we had a scare with a 22-year-old young man who had been contacting my daughter attempting to meet her for coffee.
Although my daughter has some developmental delays she is still a teen girl looking for validation anywhere she can get it like any other teen girl. I remember being close to her age and fantasizing that a 20 something year old boy, whom I had met, was interested in me. Not a sexual fantasy just that he was my “boyfriend”. How cool would that be? Thankfully he had no interest and we had no internet or texting to even let him know I had any interest.
Working with teens has been my passion most of my adult life. I’ve been a youth leader for over 20 years. Although I know that has made a difference in the lives of students, I’ve come to discover that teens will be the most successful when we have involved parents working hand-in-hand with the other adults in their lives (like youth leaders, teachers, and coaches). It all starts at home and parents need to parent. Is it work? Most definitely. Probably the hardest job any of us will ever have. No one ever said parenting would be easy. We are raising small humans to become responsible adults. All the while their brains are still developing. (Anyone who’s ever raised a teen knows their brains are not fully developed.)
Our kids don’t need another friend they need a parent, they need guidance, they need rules and they need someone to enforce them. They need to be taught right from wrong they and need discipline. It is hard. Harder today than ever. Unlike when I grew up if we were home we were, for the most part, safe. That’s not necessarily the case any longer. With the internet and handheld devices kids are not safe even in their own home. A phone or computer in the privacy of their bedroom is no different than allowing them to wander around the Las Vegas strip alone. The students I lead fear their parents hearing this because they won’t be able to have their mobile devices where their parents can’t see them. They protest that their privacy should be, well, private.
Parents we need to know what’s happening in their lives. Privacy? There’s no such thing until you’re out on your own and making your own way. It is vital we know what is happening in their world so we know how to direct them. So do you know what your kids are really doing?
No really, do you do you know what your kids are doing? Are you keeping up with technology? Does your teen have a phone or laptop that you don’t know how to use or to access everything they have on it? Do you take the time to look at what’s going on every now and then?
So how do you do this? Well here’s a few easy ways to get started. Phones, laptops, really anything that connects to the Internet, should never be allowed in a bedroom or in any area that isn’t open to everyone else in the family to walk by and see. We go as far as the screens need to face us, it’s okay that they have their backs to us when using a screen. Do you know the user names and passwords to your kids’ social media accounts and then do you check it occasionally just to see what’s happening? Being friends with them on their social media is not the same as being able to see in their account and see what people are posting, messaging, etc. Do you have access to your kids texts even if they delete them before you get to the phone? (T-Mobile digits is a great app) And do you occasionally take the time to check them? Yes, it’s going to take work but if we’re going to give them those privileges and allow them to have electronic devices and social media then we have to take the responsibility to be involved and help their under-developed brains learn the difference between right and wrong. That means not only policing but having discussions with them about these things and why it is that you’re doing them. Those drives on the way to school and on the way to games is the perfect opportunity to have those conversations. When they’re held captive in a car, and yes that means a rule about not having their face continually buried in their social media, as you drive.
Can they turn out alright without doing these things? Maybe. But are you willing to leave it to chance? I am at God fearing, Jesus loving, praying mom who has 100% faith that my God has a plan for each of us but I also feel that it is my God-given duty to raise my kids well. Many people say “well that’s great for you but you don’t know my kid” and you’re absolutely right I don’t. I do know that if they are to have fighting chance the best thing that can happen is for a parent to walk alongside them and provide the discipline needed.
Are there going to be great parents who have terrible things that still happening? Absolutely. But I venture to say that if more parents were more involved, knew what their kids were doing, and were having great conversations that the tragedies we are experiencing would be reduced drastically.