Sunday, September 21, 2008

The battle of the sexy

Childhood development experts Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., offer parents an essential guide to protecting their kids from a sexualized childhood, in their book, So Sexy So Soon. The authors address a monster attacking our children's innocence: the media. Not only is it our obsession with sex that is damaging our young people, but our media-rich culture is drowning our children in sex, sex, sex, and more sex. 
The book offers the reader with suggestions, sample dialogues, stories, and resources for parents who want to address this sensitive topic with their children. Some of these tips can be found on the book's website. I have highlighted several and added my comments:
  • Work with your children to develop rules and routines about their TV watching and media use. Involving children in the decision-making process benefits them greatly. It teaches them how to make decisions and how to compromise, and it boosts their self-confidence as they experience a sense of investment in the decision made.
  • Get beyond just saying “no.” Yes, "no" is the easy answer, but think of what children gain when provided with an explanation and not just "because I said so." 
  • Establish safe channels of communication with children & Be willing to listen, do not rush in with judgments or advice. Allow your [child] to voice their own opinions and make their own decisions. Is there anything quite as valuable to a child as being able to talk to his/her mom or dad without feeling judged or ashamed? 
  • Try to take your child’s point of view and see the world through his or her eyes. We learn so much from young people when we understand their perspective.
  • Point out examples of males and females who are doing a broad range of activities, not just the limited range that children so often see in the media & Challenge assumptions about gender by asking your daughter to help repair something or asking your son to help cook and clean up. I am a firm supporter of breaking gender stereotypes. Let's embrace our children no matter what they want to do or be, and let's try to disrupt their desire to conform to the media's portrayal of what a man or woman should be and look like.
  • Work cooperatively with other adults & Model healthy intimate relationships. Our children learn so much by watching us. Help them to see positive and healthy relationships by modeling them in your life.
  • Get to know the parents of your [child's] friends. This helps gain perspective on your own parental experience, and fosters a feeling of safety to know where your [child] is and whom he/she is with & Get to know your [child's] friends. Allow them to feel comfortable spending time at your house by creating a [child]-friendly environment in which an adult can be present without hovering. This not only gives us a have a leg-up on what are children are doing, but it also provides us with a network of other adults who are working in the best interest of our children.
  • Do not allow computers and televisions in your [child's] bedroom. Have them use these items in a family or common room where you can occasionally glance at what they are watching on TV or websites they are visiting online. There is no good reason for a child to have access to these things in the privacy of their bedroom. Honestly, I cannot think of one good reason.
  • Share values and expectations with your teen. If you disapprove of your teen being sexually active, say so and give reasons why. Yes, these can be scary conversations, but these are exactly the kinds of conversations that we should be having with our children. We cannot assume that other people are talking to our children about sex in positive and productive ways. We are the parents - that is our job.
  • Encourage a broad range of interests and skills in your teen, and focus on compassion, kindness, perseverance, rather than how they look. This is a huge self-confidence builder. There is nothing more dangerous than a teen girl with low self-esteem mixed with a teen boy wanting to explore his sexual desires. If this girl doesn't feel good about herself, there is a great chance that she will succumb to the boy's desire in order to make herself feel loved and accepted.
  • Let your [child] know that conflict is inevitable in close relationships and teach ways to resolve conflict peacefully. Ahhh, conflict resolution. If we can teach children how to resolve conflicts peacefully, think of what a better world this would be.

No comments: