by Leina Ussin
Growing up, my mother always told me there was no guide to parenting. She’d admit she didn’t have all the answers and was doing the best she could. And though many of us can argue there are thousands of books out there on parenting, it’s a no brainer that she was right.
See, we buy all the books, ask all the questions, take heed to all the advice, and still, our child can grow up and become the complete opposite of what we expected. In some cases, this can be for the worst, but sometimes as parents, there is literally only so much we can do.
For the most part, I think it’s safe to say we all want our kids to be safe. We want them to experience all the joys life has to offer while avoiding the negativity. We hope they never experience any kind of injustice, harm, or hopelessness. We can even become overprotective, sheltering them from certain shows, music, and even people! We have this desire to want to protect our kids from so much, but the reality is, there’s literally only so much we can do in this area as well.
Whether we want to accept it or not, kids or being exposed to things through television, games, and sometimes even at their schools that we would prefer to keep them away from. And rather than locking your child in his room and throwing away the key, certain things, as a parent, we have to get over and start discussing with our kids.
We force ourselves through the uncomfortable conversations of, “If someone touches you ‘here’ you know you can tell me right?”
We attempt to create a comfortable atmosphere with our children so they can tell us when their bodies go through certain changes when they get in a relationship when they experience their first heartbreak, and God forbid when they decide to have sex for the first time.
Whew. That talk. The “birds and the bees” talk. Now, I am not here to tell you how to have that conversation. I don’t have any amazing notes on how to say it without your child, or you, feeling awkward! I can say this though, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 over 190,000 babies were born to mothers whose ages ranged from 15-19. If that doesn’t scare you, this will! According to The Conversation, 21% of teens admit to being sexually assaulted by another teenager before the age of 17. If you’re a parent, your first thought went to protecting your child from this, right? Because I know my mind did. But now, I have to put another horrific image in your mind.
What if your child was the assailant?
Now, we can play the not-my-child card all day. But ask yourself this question, out of all the uncomfortable conversations you have had, or intend to have with your child, was/is consent one of them?
Research shows that even before the age of two, children have pretty good understandings between right and wrong. And we sometimes assume our kids just know these things. But in today’s day and age, I am afraid we can’t give society, nor our kids, the benefit of the doubt.
Our kids are going to create separate identities of themselves with their friends that we may never see, but it’s imperative we continue to enforce that right or wrong behavior within them! Remind them they may find themselves in a situation where everyone is doing wrong, and they will have to be the only one that does what’s right.
Remind them to always respect another person’s things, space, and body. Make sure they understand the importance of consequences, and how you may not be able to save them from every action they commit.
We tell little girls to watch how they dress, where they go, who they talk to, and not sit on a man or little boy’s lap. We need to make sure we let our little boys know to never touch a girl inappropriately, to force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do, and to treat her the way he would want someone to treat his mother.
Here in the US, certain middle schools have stepped up in this area and began speaking with 4th-6th graders about related incidents like this. And in the beginning, I was uncomfortable. But, was honestly relieved when my son came home and we talked about it and his response was, “Mom, I’m ten!”
You know your child better than anyone. You have an idea of what they can and cannot handle, and what you’re ready to expose them to. I can tell you have this conversation with them at 10, or 12, or 15! But honestly, that’s not my call. You’re the parent! That child is yours, and I’m not here to step on anyone’s toes. But, avoiding an issue does not make it go away. And the conversation you have today can protect your child, or someone else’s child, tomorrow!
Parenting can come with as many guides as we want, but with the time we have, it’s our responsibility as parents, to continue to enforce morals into our children. Our responsibility starts before birth and will continue until we take our last breath. We will always be protective over our children, and as time goes on, and they grow up, they may still find themselves needing us.
Hey, I’m 33 years old and still asking my mom, “Did I do this right?”