Just saying that word gives most of us that are parents a slight shudder. Well, those of us that are just entering that phase anyway…if you’re a seasoned parent, past the pre-teen stage perhaps you sigh with relief knowing you don’t have to repeat those years.
Honestly these were the years I was most looking forward to…getting to see my child being shaped into the person they will spend their life being! It sounds silly, I realize, but in all truthfulness that period of time holds some of the best memories I have of my growing up years and I long to provide that same type of experience for my children.
What I couldn’t have possibly accounted for is the change that our world has experienced and the impact it would have on my own child-rearing years. Namely the explosion of connectedness. I’m very slowly reading a book I picked up at the local bookstore a few weeks ago…”Tough Guys and Drama Queens”. The first chapter is dedicated to addressing what is so different in the culture today than in the early 20th century. One fact stood out to me beyond all other…
“In the 1930s, written information doubled every thirty years. In the 1970s and 1980s, that amount
of information doubled every eleven years. Today, codified information doubles every eleven hours.
That means that you can end your workday being half as wise as you were when you woke up that
That’s insane, and in some ways makes our children smarter than us because they, more often than not, know how to access that information far quicker than the average parent.
How scary is that to have to navigate as a parent already feeling slightly inadequate. My mom has often said that she doesn’t envy our generation, having to raise children in the fast-pace, connected world that we live in.
In truth I feel even more honoured in a way, that I was entrusted with the four children I have during this period in history. Does it raise the standard in terms of being more involved as a parent? Absolutely! Recently James attended a seminar hosted by an RCMP officer that specializes in social media, the internet and youth. Although my husband is quite savvy when it comes to such things I suggested he go instead of myself as he would be more likely to understand half the jargon AND when it comes to implementing techniques in relation to the “inter-web” and other connected devices he would probably be better at it. He came home, first and foremost, with a deeper sense of assurance that we were actually doing a pretty good job introducing our children to these different ways of connecting with the world BUT also a greater sense of urgency to openly communicate with our children what they already knew, not because we’d shared it, but because they’d encountered it at school, with their friends, stumbled across it, etc. Also a pressing desire to engage in constant discussion in regards to how to navigate these waters cautiously and together.
One of the things I have valued as a parent is openness. It means addressing the issue even if it’s uncomfortable. It gives kids the opportunity to ask the questions of me, as a parent, rather than their friends who don’t have all the information or maybe none yet. An example of my most recent experience was the first discussion I had with Sam regarding certain aspects of sexuality. While we hadn’t purposely avoided it, in all honesty, it just hadn’t entered our realm of discussion. Having the opportunity to sit down and talk with him had been on my mind and he hadn’t asked any questions yet so I felt the need to broach the subject with him. At first it was awkward, I wasn’t sure where to start, he wasn’t really excited to share what he already knew, but once we began the discussion it led to some great dialogue and I felt better that he knew I was approachable even with topics he wasn’t quite sure about. It wasn’t a long, drawn out discussion but I think he walked away with some things to think about.
Being willing to be open doesn’t just involve discussions related to sexuality…it has to overflow into every aspect of life related to your child’s growing experiences. For us open discussion has been key in helping us delay the introduction of a cellphones or any other personal device of that sort. It hasn’t been because we wanted to isolate or shelter them but discussing with them our reasoning, our desire to see them become more responsible, to understand the reasons for having said devices and how they will be used in our home has allowed us the luxury of introducing in the timing we feel appropriate for our children rather than what their peers deem appropriate. It isn’t always easy and sometimes we’ve been perceived as the bad guys but in the end it hasn’t been a battle.
I think one of the main lessons I’m learning during this stage is that the more open, up front and honest you are with your pre-teen/teenager, the more likely you will be to have the privilege of walking with them through the tumultuous years that have the greatest impact on shaping their character and values for the rest of their life.