|Does anyone else think its funny that I have gigantic, disembodied cat paw on my face?|
As many of you know, I work with responsibility.org and this month they asked me to write about how I get my kids to open up to me and tell me things. Mostly it's getting them alone in the car, that's my big trick. They’ll basically tell me anything when they don’t have to make eye contact and they think I’m partially distracted by the road.
Lately, a lot of important conversations have been happening around things we see in the media and on-line. Last year, I wrote a little bit about the media and how I use it as a springboard to have talks with my kids:
Every time the media hands me an opportunity, I grab it. A song on the radio talking about drinking and sex and I’ll say: “You guys, what do you think that means?”. A movie that shows teenagers partying: “What do you think this is saying to kids?”. This helps my kids both become more aware of the bombardment of messages about drinking and partying directed at them, but also to deconstruct what it means both to them personally and to our culture in general. These moments seem to be happening all the time, as every song on the radio now seems to be about sexytime or getting wasted.
When my kids were little, I was largely in control of the media they saw and listened to. My older kids are in 8th and 6th grades now and the truth is that their worlds are opening up and I am no longer entirely in charge of what they read, hear and watch - and I shouldn't be. My daughter will be in college in 5 years and I have to start trusting her judgment. In fact, I would argue that kids have a hard time learning to use their judgment when we collectively shield them from opportunities to use it.
I love that my kids are now old enough to watch movies from the 80's that I watched at their age. I love that they're finding new music to introduce me to. They are so much fun to hang out with and honestly, parenting tweens is actually pretty great most of the time. All of that good stuff is fodder for conversations. It gives me the chance to share stories with them, admit to embarrassing mistakes and failures, and try to relate our shared experiences.
But it's so different now than when I was 11. They have access to so much information (and misinformation) and it's literally streaming at them all the time. This year in particular, the media has been kind of... dreadful. So many things being thrown at us, so much ugliness and sadness. All of the bad stuff is fodder, too. Our conversations form the framework and foundation for how all that information is ultimately perceived.
I can't tell you how many times this year we've had talks based on something they saw, heard, or read. Or something they heard at school that came from what a friend saw on TV. Every time I get the chance to ask them what they think, or how they learned about something, and what they think it means - we get to build onto that framework. Every conversation fortifies the foundations we've been working to strengthen together.
Those foundations have to do making choices, taking responsibility, and having the strength to do what's right (even when that feels like the hard, or the wrong, or the less fun choice). For better or worse, with each passing year the amount of information and the types of media my kids are exposed to give us almost daily opportunities to have these conversations.
This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org as part of their #StartsWithMe campaign, encouraging families to talk early, talk often, and be healthy. All the opinions are my own because no one is the boss of me. I'm very proud to be part of the #TalkEarly blogger team this year.
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