Sharing lives – offline
Doing so led to one of the deepest conversations I’ve had with my teen in a while. Recently, she got a little sassy and I decided to punish her by taking away her “lifelines”: cell phone and computer. I didn’t just suspend her use of them; I physically took them and hid them.
She wants to be an attorney, so I commended her for the rather good arguments she made for why I should give them back. But I stood my ground. When she realized I wasn’t going to bend, she sat next to me and started talking.
We talked until two in the morning! I had been wanting to talk to her about the dangers of sexting and inappropriate Facebook postings, I took full advantage of her undivided attention.
I used the MASK (Mothers Awareness on School-age Kids) Magazine’s recent issue about digital safety as a springboard for our conversation and, once she got going, she talked honestly about what some kids her age are doing. She revealed just how much she knows about all the things I wish she didn’t. She talked about her personal values, morals and ethics and what she wasn’t willing to compromise – for anyone.
I proudly listened to her converse so maturely about things I’ve agonized over whether to bring up, for fear of turning her away. I believed that being up front with her about my own behaviors at her age would earn her trust and confidence. She’d realize that I really do know what it’s like to be a teenager.
About five years ago I found a journal I had written when I was 14 years old. I let her read it. I had written down some not so pretty thoughts about my mom and about things I was doing behind her back.
I remember my mom’s criticizing me for letting my daughter read the journal: “She’s going to remind you that you did certain things and you turned out fine – so, why can’t she?”
I still believe I did the right thing. Though she was only 10-years-old at the time, I think I had planted a seed that contributed to the easy way she engaged with me in more recent conversations.
Michelle Cardini, the co-founder of MASK, says there’s research to support what I did: “Given what we expect our children to be exposed to, it’s best for parents to speak to them about these impending situations at an age-appropriate level, perhaps five years before they’re going to be exposed to it. And it’s not just about speaking to them once; it’s about creating an on-going dialogue.”
When it comes to connecting with your kids, technology is a good addition not a replacement. Taking a break from it was a good reminder.
Catherine Anaya anchors CBS 5 News weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6 & 10pm. She is a mother of two, marathon runner and motivational speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook, Twitter and at CatherineAnaya.com.