Parents need to stay relevant? Of course we are relevant to our children aren’t we? We are the ones that feed them, provide shelter, clothe them, drive them places……..love them. They need us don’t they? So of course they will think of us as relevant to their world.
But what about when it comes to the other stuff? The other aspects of their life they need us for, but aren’t always acutely aware of. The digital world. Their world.
When I have heard about a child that has found themselves in trouble online, or got themselves in to a really bad situation they nearly didn’t get themselves out of, I always ask why they didn’t go to mum or dad for help.
The answer is nearly always the same. “Because they wouldn’t understand”. “They would tell me to close down the screens, turn off the notifications and stay away from the online abyss”
And that can certainly be our first thought and no doubt our real desire.
But is it helpful?
We know that the social world of online networks means so much to our kids. They are caught in a dilemma of needing to be there and to be seen, whilst at the same time desperately craving time away from the spotlight.
So how do we as parents manage that?
I believe we need to try really hard to understand that dilemma. We recognise it, we speak about it and we help them see a way through.
Yes, it may well be advising some downtime away from the screens. It may well be going for a drive, playing some sport together, grabbing a milkshake and sitting without the devices. But we need them to see that we understand and we recognise the challenges. We want to be there to help them ride that wave when things get difficult.
Of course not every young teen or tween wants to hang out with mum or dad right now. They would much prefer to to turn to their friends for understanding, guidance and answers. And that’s ok.
But as a parent, we do have a role to play in this too. We have the chance to let them know that we ‘get’ the struggles. Or we at least know that they exist.
So we continue to stay connected to the world they live in, find out the sorts of things kids are experiencing online. We need to discuss the concerns we have. We need to ask them what concerns they have themselves?
And we need to let them know that we are there to help guide, support, listen and help them. It’s easy to want to control and to lecture and show them and share with them all the wisdom we have. Because, let’s face it, we know how they should be doing things better and we’d much prefer they did things our way.
But that isn’t want they want either and sometimes it can backfire.
They do need to know there are many, many ways we will always remain relevant to their world however, and ways that will change and grow as they change and grow.
That way, even though they may not freely admit it, we too get to be the ones they can fall back on, when things don’t go to plan.