Times Have Changed
by Dr. Kevin Leman
Your kids are growing up in a world very different from the one you grew up in. But you don’t need me to tell you that because you experience reminders of that truth every day. Today’s world is fast-paced, tumultuous, competitive, and violent at times. Even if you’re a young parent in your twenties, a lot has changed since you graduated from high school. Just think about the first computer and cell phone you owned. Then take a look at all the technological devices you own now and what they can do. The intensity of that pace deeply affects your child, even on her good days. That’s why bad days and difficult experiences can be particularly traumatic if your child doesn’t have the tools to deal with such events.
Children today face multiple issues simultaneously. As much as you might try to cushion them, they are forced to grow up more swiftly as they are assaulted by information and events on all sides. I group those real-life issues into two categories—what is “out there” and what is “in here.” Here’s what I mean.
We live in a violent world, with shootings in schools and on city streets, racial violence, terrorism, and cyber-slandering. Your kids face those types of “out there” contemporary issues—the events every human is aware of because of the society we live in. Due to the bombardment of media, today’s children are more aware of those types of events than previous generations. With a few clicks of a mouse or swipes on a smartphone, they can be connected to the gravity and terror of those situations—without parental guidance or the tools to deal with what they see and hear.
The result? Either they are traumatized and approach life more fearfully, or they become anesthetized to the hurts of others and unable to grapple with their own. Neither option is good long-term. Your kids also face “in here” issues—relational and personal issues that hit them between the eyes psychologically, emotionally, and physically. That includes parents splitting up, getting shuffled between houses, and having MIA dads or moms. You might be the aunt or grandparent they currently live with. Dealing with court issues and the legal system is a way of life they accept as normal.
When I was growing up, I only knew one kid whose parents were divorced. That kid felt he stuck out like a sore thumb among all the other two-parent families. Fast-forward to today, where many kids have last names that are different from their siblings or the parent they currently live with. Many parents have divorced or never married. Kids might be raised in a single-parent home or live with a guardian.
Children also deal with depression and the death of loved ones through cancer, accident, and suicide. They are betrayed by friends and encounter bullying and cyber-bullying. They are told they are stupid, fat, or “the wrong color.” They can become the prey of sexual predators and power-hungry, need-to-be-in-control individuals.
Yes, we can and should teach our kids how to protect themselves. For example, we can teach them basic self-defense skills and about “stranger danger.” But what do you do if the real danger comes from within? Most physical, sexual, and verbal abuse happens within the family or extended family. And what if your child innocently releases details about herself, her location, and her habits on the internet and is targeted by vindictive peers or an online stalker?
How do you respond when your daughter’s friend commits suicide? A BFF gossips about her? She ends up pregnant? Your deployed spouse is killed in action and your son says he wants to die too?
How do you react when your son is devastated because he didn’t make the team and he won’t talk to you about it? When your daughter refuses to eat because someone called her “chunky”? In such situations and many others, how can you keep your child’s heart and mind protected from long-term damage that could affect their self-worth and relationships in the future? It’s critical that parents help kids find new ways to process information and feelings in a healthy manner. Such an approach isn’t merely about coping; it allows them to grow in their understanding of life and its realities. It will put them firmly on the path of becoming an adult who can give back to the world, rather than one who lashes out against others in retribution or retreats to live in a shell in fear.
Dr. Kevin Leman, When Your Kid Is Hurting, Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group [link to Baker Publishing Group’s website (http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com)], © 2018. Used by permission.
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