I have heard it said that we as parents are supposed to be the "gatekeepers". I understand and can get with that but I'm of the opinion that we should be raising our kids to be their own gate keepers. It is our responsibility to teach and show them examples of how to monitor and regulate all the things around them and what they allow in.
tv shows: all white cast with the exception of the one brown or black person on the show who is the bad guy, the maid, the trouble maker. Instead of just shutting it off and saying we're not watching this. take the opportunity to point out what you see, ask your child what they see, talk about bias, talk about what portraying actors this way sets people up to believe. talk about how lack of diversity in media affects everyone.
Books: If a book has any mention of physical intimacy does that automatically deem the book inappropriate. Saying no you can't read that book because it's inappropriate. Well who is making out, what is making out, why are they making out. Is that wrong, what makes it wrong, is it just wrong for now, what kind of boundaries should we have when it comes to that kind of physical closeness with someone, who is safe. What is appropriate, what are the repercussions for being close with someone like that. talking openly about these things will help our kids make informed decision when the time comes and it can also help them to know when things are inappropriate.
Magazines and commercials: the covers talks about the latest diet trends or the cover girls are consistently shown with flawless skin just enough curves, flowing hair. Instead of that's a terrible magazine don't read that crap. change the channel I hate this commerical. Ask what do you think of this picture? Do you think it's been retouched? Do you think she looks like that when she wakes up, do most people you see look like that, how do we feel about our bodies, what do we say when we look I'm the mirror, how do we care for our bodies. Speaking openly about self image and diet culture can help set your kids on the path for a healthy self image and healthy habits.
These are just a few specific examples but the point is that we have the opportunity to take what may be deemed as inappropriate and talk about it and educate and prepare our children for adulthood. Instead of sheltering and hiding these things from our kids in an effort to protect them. I believe that this can begin at an early age. Of course we should be sensitive to a child's maturity level and what their personalities can handle. How we talk about things and what we talk about with our kids will change as they get older. The point is that we talk to them. That we start the conversation.
Yes, there are terrible things going on in the world. Yes, some terrible things can and most likely will begin subtly and often with people you know. Yes, we need to be mindful of who our kids are talking to, listening to, and watching. But I believe that more than all of that we need to talk to our kids. We have to keep the lines of communication open. We have to point out the subtleties we see. We have to continue to have all the uncomfortable conversations. I don't know very many folks who enjoy having those types of hard conversations with their kids but if we don't they're going to find the information with or without us. I personally would rather our kids learn the actual facts from me then half truths from unreliable sources. Not to mention I believe that having these lines of communication open serves as tangible evidence for our kids to know that we are always a safe place. Always somewhere they know they can talk about anything!
When we take the time to be open with our kids they begin to form their own opinions. they begin to understand the necessity to turn something off when it's inappropriate or to much. They begin to learn to speak up when someone is being treated unjustly. They learn to share their feelings in a deeper way. They are beginning to learn how to "guard their hearts". They begin to understand the world for what it is, the good and the not so good.
I think it's fair to say, we all want to protect our kids and we are all doing the best we know how to keep them safe and help guide them into adulthood. This just happens to be how we choose to help keep our kids safe.