Until recently, I had lived in this fantasy world where I believed there would be a long spaced out timeline over which we would have to talk about puberty, cyberspace safety, drugs and then finally sex with our sons. After conversations with my sons’ friends’ parents – who have teenage children as well as elementary school aged children, reality has bitten me as these topics will likely have to be broached sooner rather than later – despite my eldest only being 8.
Thanks to my neighbourhood friends, I am now more aware that puberty is coming earlier. Teen-like emotions, anxieties and actions are on the horizon as this behaviour is starting earlier among children – closer to 10 years of age.
In pop-culture, story of the day is Jessi Slaughter, the 11 year old girl whose videoblogs and online chats have led to cyberbullies taunting her. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9giU0tZEJk With the internet, children can easily gain exposure to the reality of the grown up world. My biggest concern with this story is that Jessi is 11 year old girl but she talks, acts and dresses like a 15 or 16 year old teenager. Is this what her circle of friends talks and acts like? Are her parents and teachers giving her any guidance?
Again, thanks to my friends with older children, I am hearing that a few children in grades 7 and 8 are smoking up before they step on the school bus at the beginning of their day. These are 12 and 13 year olds. Other parents are telling me that drugs are being dealt and purchased by children under 10 in some suburbs. In my fantasy world, I wasn’t going to have to talk about drugs until my sons started big, bad, scary high school. Apparently I am behind the times and need to think about having this conversation sooner rather than later.
Like most parents, I am not ready for my children to grow up any faster than they are all ready. My husband and I are trying to surround our boys with strong connections – teachers, friends, extra-curricular coaches, etc. with whom our boys can bond, have fun and stay safe. While these conversations with friends are concerning, I am glad to have had my eyes opened. I am even more thankful that I know many of my sons’ friends’ parents and we can share experiences and get know more about who is in my sons’ peer group and what their influences are.
I am still quite nervous about the tween and teen years. As one half of a working full time parental unit, I haven’t figured out a plan that will allow my boys to be kept busy with strong after school activities so they stay out of trouble without my husband or I giving up working and moving to a shoe box. I am determined to find a way to give my boys a strong home, friend and activity network that will hopefully guide them along a positive path.
Please share any suggestions and experiences that you have.