Shelter or Expose – A Parents Dilemma in Raising a Child.

This weeks parent workshop led to a discussion about “sheltering children from” or “exposing to” and where the balance lay. In Australia drinking is a real problem and if the government funded ads are to be believed, most kids are given alcohol by their parents growing up. I have certainly talked with parents who are adamant that this is the way it should be – especially for boys. They believe boys are going to drink, far better they do it in the safety of their home, with dad. On the other hand you have parents who cry this gives a child the message that drinking is ok and thus you have the age old argument well under way regarding whether or not exposing a child to something actually makes it worse.

People are against sex education, reformed drug addicts and criminals speaking to kids .. saying this gives too much information. On the other side, you will hear that these kids are going to be exposed to these things and they need proper information to counteract all the misinformation they will get from less reputable sources.

I know children who never see an adult smoke or drink and are shocked when they witness one for the first time. I know people who were raised without watching television. It has been my experience that these kids who chose something else for their lives, become very adept at hiding who they are when they are away from mom and dad. They are not often well equipped to handle life. Those that have “sailed through” without any exposure, are usually those who are successful in living within a prescribed community of associations that chose the same lifestyle. It breaks down when they are forced to step away from that shelter and deal with a world that no longer tends to label people who smoke, drink and have recreational sex as “bad.” People’s self esteem gets very caught up in “us” and “them” and being able to identify those clearly as “good” and “bad.” A world that subscribes to “live and let live” is too vague and scary.

One thing I can say is that children need clear communication lines with their parents and an environment of acceptance. When a parent sticks their head in the sand and pretends that certain things are not out there, or insists that everyone who does those things is “bad” you have cut your child off at the knees. They know that to come to a parent like that with a question or a problem regarding that issue is not something they can do. They must help preserve the parents image at all costs.

So what is the answer? That there is no one answer. It comes back to parenting. If you step aside from your own fears and insecurities and look at truly preparing a child for the life they will be living, in the world they will inherit, you must prepare them. How and when you do that is something only a parent can gauge because each child is different. I raised a goodly number of kids, my own and other people’s, and I can assure you .. what works for one will not always work for the next. Parents must be responsible and pro-active and they must not be afraid.

Today it is irresponsible to think that people can live isolated lives under protective glass. Like it or not, you are pretty well guaranteed that your child will experience money difficulties, violence, relationship problems, ill health, discrimination, political unrest, a natural disaster, death of loved ones, tragedies, inappropriate sexual conduct, wars, challenges to their faith and beliefs, disappointment and failure. They will experience those things, not because you are a poor parent, but because that is life. You can either set them out there telling them it is all sunshine and lollipops and let it be a surprise or you can prepare them and give them the tools and the skills they will need to survive. Surprising them means they will probably end up living on the other side of the world hating you. Preparing them means even if they live on the other side of the world … you can probably still visit at Christmas!!

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~ by blisswindlow on June 25, 2011.

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