By Tracey Lipsig Kite, LCSW, JCFS Trainer and Educator
“Parenting is a Journey, Don’t Take it Alone” is the theme that runs through the programming Jewish Child & Family Services offers for parents. Travelers always take certain things with them – smart phones, identification, fuel, food, directions - so that their trips can be smooth. What crucial items do parents need to have on their journeys? The concepts below can be helpful for all parents regardless of the age of their children or the issue at hand.
- Parents are in charge and they can best reinforce this by setting firm boundaries. Their job is to teach kids which means they can’t always be friends with them. Parents and kids are separate, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and journeys.
- The goal is to raise competent, resilient kids. With a constant eye on that end goal, parents need to encourage independence and respect for authority while allowing for failure. This means allowing kids to be “good enough” instead of pushing them to be “the best.”
- Good enough parenting requires self-awareness, self-care and self-compassion. Kids learn from watching their parent’s behaviors including how they handle stress and inevitable mistakes.
- Everyone needs to be heard which is why listening skills are so important. Kids need to share their experiences and know they have a safe place to go as they figure out what to do themselves (rather than being told what to do).
- Kids develop certain capacities at different ages. Understanding normal development can save parents from being furious at their kids for developmentally typical behavior (i.e. the self-absorbed middle school years).
These concepts will be integrated through the upcoming JCFS parent program: “Let’s Talk about Boys, Sexuality and Consent in the Internet and #MeToo Age”.
- Parents need to be familiar with the amount of sexual material (including pornography) that kids are exposed to on the internet while still in grade school. If parents want to be their kids’ “go to” about sexuality, they need to set boundaries by talking about the impact and risks associated with watching pornography.
- Raising competent, resilient kids means acknowledging they are (or will be) sexual beings and will see sexual content online. Parents can help kids think about their own feelings, the needs of others, and the misleading messages pornography conveys.
- Parents may sometimes behave in ways that are not respectful of others. Good enough parents are able to recognize how their behavior was hurtful, apologize and behave differently going forward.
- Kids need to talk about their experiences. Parents are at their best when they employ good listening skills – when they listen without jumping in to lecture, frighten, or correct.
- When normal development hasn’t yet allowed a teen to think forward to the potential outcome/consequence of their behavior, it is the responsibility of the adults around them to create the barriers to keep them safe. This would include software to block inappropriate material as pop-ups and being aware of what kids are seeing on screens.
Each parenting issue will have different levels of emphasis on the different concepts, but like all maps, having all of the components handy will certainly ease the way. We are pleased to offer a variety of programs to help parents in different stages of their parenting journey.