What do television, movies, magazines, advertising, radio, and even your child's friends all have in common? They all have messages that they want your child to believe. Magazines push the image of an extremely thin body as an example of health and beauty. Commercials want your child to believe that they need to dress a certain way or own certain items in order to be considered likable and good-looking. Radio programs and the music selections they play try to encourage your child to believe that underage drinking is cool.
And it doesn't stop there. Confused from their own mixed feelings about these messages, your child's friends and classmates can have some not so great messages to share. In their effort to fit in, they may try to push their friends (your child) into trying things that the group finds cool.
So, the question is, what's a parent to do? Thankfully, today's parents spend more time talking to, or trying to talk to their children about these issues than their parents did just twenty or thirty years ago. However, the attitude that we just need to talk to our children about these messages is not enough. We need to do more than talk; we need to arm them with sufficient amounts of correct information and solid enough life skills to use that information correctly.
One problem that many parents face is a time crunch. Many parents do not have the time to devote hours to just hanging out with their kids waiting until the subjects can come up naturally or casually. With two income families, longer work hours, and longer commutes to contend with, parents need to make the most of the limited time that they do have with their kids. When that happens, parents tend to jump into discussions about these issues and the "talk" comes off sounding more like a lecture to the kids.
Even when a parent has time to ease into a talk, they may not know exactly what issues their child is facing. Or worse, their child may be too uncomfortable to discuss certain issues with their parents. According to recent studies, kids nine years of age or younger still list their mother as their top source of information. However, by ten or eleven years old, those same kids list their main sources of information as tied between their moms, friends, and the media. If nothing is done to change their feelings, these same kids rank their information sources as friends first, TV/movies second, school third, the Internet fourth, and then finally their mom at fifth by the time they become teenagers.
The best way to combat this problem is by starting your discussions about issues and life skills when your children are very young. If you speak to your child about certain issues before they are old enough to face them, you can help prepare them to face them later. And, you can start building the groundwork for good, open, honest communication. Then, when your child does have an issue they are facing, they may be more likely to come to you instead of their friends.
Another way that you can help is to instill the right life skills in your child early on. Things like goal setting skills, time management skills, money management skills, sportsmanship skills, and health awareness are life skills that your child needs now and in the future. For example, if your child understands the importance of staying physically fit and eating right, they will have a better body image. With a better body image comes more self-confidence, and self-respect. With this type of mindset, teens will be more apt to say no to drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc., because they will possess the self-confidence to say no and the self-respect to not want to harm their bodies.
Also skills such as time management, sportsmanship and goal setting can come into play when your child is faced with certain other issues. Sportsmanship can help a child deal with a coach or teammate who is only out to win, especially if this teammate attempts to push your child past their limits, expects them to put sports above all over obligations, or maybe even pushes steroid use as the only option to win.
Time management and goal setting can help if your child is facing the issue of stress from becoming over-extended. Many kids are dealing with stress due to a fear of failing. These kids are striving to earn perfect grades, compete expertly in sports, be the perfect kids, and still have time to be cool with their friends. Kids that are caught up in this cycle sometimes turn to drugs to stay energized, or to mellow out. Time management can be a better answer to their time crunch.
Goal setting can also be an option for these kids. The ability to set and achieve goals can help them realize the right way to reach their goal and keep them from cheating or using drugs to get ahead. Good information, good values, good communication and great life skills. These are ultimately the answer to many of the issues preteens face today. Help your child right now by giving them the skills they need to navigate their teen years and prepare them for a successful future.