Marco sat in my office looking at the floor, mustering up courage to share what was bothering him. He was a sixth grade boy who eventually told me he saw inappropriate photos on his mom’s phone that she sent to her boyfriend.
Tears streamed down his face. Mom yelled at him for getting into “her stuff” and that it was none of his business.
Marco* needed help processing something he innately knew was wrong. He was hurt because his mom didn’t value that he wanted to protect her from the boyfriend he knew didn’t treat her right. He was confused and bothered because his mom wasn’t supposed to be doing things like that.
Marco talked to me more that school year as he processed his parent’s behavior. He talked about his disappointment and hurt that his mom thought he was old enough to learn “certain things” and deal with them on his own.
Working with kids for over twenty years, I’ve learned one thing: Kids don’t change.
In other words, in a world where morals, technology, and what’s accepted is quickly changing, kids don’t change. Their development is consistent with past generations. Their brain still works the same way. Their capacity for decision-making, understanding, and need for guidance and direction also doesn’t change.
In recent weeks, I’ve posted more articles on the Facebook page about social media safety, sex trafficking alerts, and toxic people. The articles I’ve come across have been highly viewed and shared. Why?
The content is striking a chord.
In a culture with new, hip political correctness about what’s acceptable and okay, there seems to be the still, small voice inside of many, like Marco, saying, “This is not okay!”
However, it appears we’re afraid to say it. Perhaps even I am as I was appalled at an open-style type of parenting article portraying the idea that kids should explore or be exposed to things (drugs, sex, alcohol) because the culture is changing.
Yes, the culture IS changing. But kids don’t change and neither do their developmental needs. Medical and psychological research hasn’t come out to say, “Kids are evolving! They’re able to now make adult decisions and understand the consequences!”
Research says the opposite: The adolescent brain isn’t fully developed until the early 20’s. My work with Marco and other adolescents like him teach me over and over again that kids innately know what’s right and wrong and they look to parents to protect, guide, and equip.
Yet, kids are being watched, groomed, and parents don’t know it. Kids are influenced by adult behavior (like Marco) and we aren’t taking it seriously. If you’re a parent, guardian, youth worker, or grandparent, I encourage you to consider the following principles:
- Your kids live as sheep among wolves as “not-fully-developed” individuals in a hostile world. You can’t shelter them from the culture. Matthew 16:10 says, “Therefore, be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” We can’t pretend we live in a Pollyanna culture, even in the faith community. But be realistic. If Jesus sent His disciples as sheep among wolves, He does not shelter us from a hostile culture, either.
- Prepare and protect your kids. Jesus commanded his disciples to be wise and understanding of the evils around them while also remaining innocent. God expects us to know what the dangers are among us while also knowing how to respond in a godly manner. He commands us to be safe in dangerous situations. How do you do this?
- Be aware of the world your child/teen lives in.
- Be familiar with their technology, what’s in, and what the real dangers are for teen and youth with social media and technology.
- Read. Research. Determine what and how you’ll monitor social media or technology for your child.
- Be engaged. Be where your kids are on social media. I hear a lot of parents say, “I have no idea what _________ or __________ is. It’s too overwhelming for me.” That’s like saying, “I have no idea who my kids are with or where they are. Keeping track is too much work.” Really–there are more dangers in your child’s cyber world than perhaps in their physical world because technology goes with them 24/7/365.
- Invest in your relationship with your child. This doesn’t just mean doing more fun stuff so you can post on Instagram. It means getting to know your child, having conversations with them, and being their parent, not their friend. Being a parent means you’re the guardian of your child’s soul. It’s a special and high calling. Parenting is also a verb, not just a noun.
There’s a lot more to say on this topic–too much for a stand alone blog post. If want more information about equipping with yourself, your peers, teens, or faith community with the technological, sexual, and cultural challenges facing youth today, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer workshops independently and also with Dove’s Nest, a great non-profit equipping churches, schools, and communities on child abuse prevention. I also offer individual sessions as a parent coach.
I want to equip you–the parent–to know the importance of your presence in your child’s life. I want to equip you to stand strong though things change around you. If you’re a Christian, I want to encourage you to walk in strength as you equip, instruct, and nurture your kids according to God’s standards, not the world’s.
What’s your biggest struggle? I’d love to hear from you!
*Names and identities have been changed.