#MeToo:  advice for parents on making this a teachable moment

#MeToo: advice for parents on making this a teachable moment

Film mogul Harvey Weinstein’s abominable behavior has surfaced a legion of stories of sexual harassment, abuse and violence from men and women of all ages.  Millions of people have shared the hashtag #MeToo,  posting on social media their long-ago memories of abuse and harassment.

How can we parent in the midst of this news? How can you help your children deal with seeing #MeToo in the social media feed of a teacher, neighbor, relative or friend?

And perhaps most important of all: How can help your children to never feel like they need to trade sex for advancement?

The best news that comes from these uncountable tragedies is that a watershed event like the #MeToo campaign is a priceless teachable moment; and as always, the place to start is a conversation with your children.

While you’re carpooling to a soccer game this week, ask your child if they’ve seen #MeToo in their social media feed, or heard the name Harvey Weinstein. Discuss Weinstein by using age- appropriate language for bullying.

Younger kids will understand that a bully is mean to other people because it is fun for them in some way. With older kids discuss that sexual abuse is taking bullying to its ugliest extreme; consider sexual abuse as the ultimate expression of a total lack of consideration for the feeling of another, in pursuit of satisfying oneself.

Some bullies have physical power because they’re the biggest kid; other bullies have social power because they can control access to things like social circles. Help make sure that your child knows that he or she can talk to you if they are on the receiving end of any of this type of behavior or if they observe bullies targeting another child.

And stress that your family’s values mean that they should never, ever behave that way toward another person. If we teach kids to recognize and refuse juvenile affronts, we set the stage for them to behave better as a teen and adult.

The #MeToo conversation can be complicated; it’s important that a child understand that they can sometimes feel awful about words and events that may not seem so bad – or are even funny — to someone else. For instance:

  • Boys pulling the straps of a girl’s bra at school;
  • A high school teacher closing the door on a tutoring session and standing too close;
  • Boys in the locker room teasing the shortest guy about the size of his genitals;
  • A graduate teaching assistant offering a college student a better grade in exchange for a date;
  • A dinner ‘meeting’ to discuss a possible promotion.

These behaviors happen at every age, and no matter what age.  What a perpetrator may consider “no big deal” may be a trauma to his or her victim.  Remind your child that everyone is different, and it’s our responsibility to consider the effect our behaviors have on each person. Similarly, they have a right to feel bad about something that someone else trivializes, and reinforce the fact that you’re always available to listen and help.

If you think your child is too young to have this conversation, consider that The Girl Scouts report that one in 10 girls is cat-called before her 11th birthday. Start now. The vast majority of the victims of sexual abuse and harassment are not the glamorous starlets on the casting couch – they’re everyday children, teens and adults exposed to abuse both subtle and overt. The key is to help your child realize that that their sexuality, their body —their physical and mental health – are more precious than any bribe a bully offers.

One of the best things you can do for your children is to talk with them now and throughout their adolescence to make sure that #MeToo never applies to them.   You may feel like you can’t change the world, but you certainly can influence your own family,

Dr. Janet Rosenzweig is the Executive Director of  The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children  and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent  and   The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children.  For more information, read her blog , follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.

origionally published as   http://www.philly.com/philly/health/kids-families/metoo-talking-to-kids-about-bullying-and-sexual-harassment-20171023.html

Parents have an important role on keeping kids safe in youth sports

Every so often there is a new report – or a wave of reports – concerning sexual misconduct in youth sports, with a resulting wave of searches for solutions. Both the government and  both the government and advocacy groups

The fact is, though, that the most effective solution for your family is very much in your own hands, and it’s as much your responsibility as putting food on the table: The key ingredient to the sexual health and safety of your child in youth sports is your own involvement.

Below is a letter that you’ll probably never see printed anywhere else:

 

Dear Parent:
Welcome to Main Street Sports League! We hope your child has a great experience in our program. Our policy is to conduct a criminal background check on all our paid staff and volunteer coaches. This will allow us to identify the approximately 5 percent of child molesters who have been reported to police, caught, charged, and convicted of a sex crime. We can’t protect your child from the other 95% without your help.

Spectators in our bleachers, vendors in the food stands, maintenance contractors working on the field, and others can potentially be near your child. They have not been screened, so we lack even the minimal 5 percent safety net here.

Pedophiles, one type of child molester, are people whose primary sexual attraction is to children. They often develop relationships with children based on trust, friendship and affection that lead to sexual abuse disguised as sex play. Most pedophiles have learned to identify children who really enjoy or even need attention from adults; predators are particularly interested in the children less likely to be supervised by parents or other adults. Hebephiles and ephebophiles, predators attracted to adolescents and teens, are similarly taking stock of opportunities.

 

Attending your child’s practice and games has many benefits for you and your family, but probably none as important as the added measure of safety that extra pairs of eyes and ears offer your child, our team, and our community.


Sincerely,
Commissioner, Main Street Sports League

Now, of course it’s impossible for most busy working parents to attend every single game and practice for each of their children who participate in sports programs. But if a predator happens to find that your child matches his or her attraction, he or she will begin to watch to see how much attention you are paying to your child.

So, get out of your minivan and talk to your son’s coach at pickup or drop off. Arrive a few minutes before your daughter’s gymnastics practice ends and watch from the bleachers. When you’re organizing your schedule for the week, pretend practice ends fifteen minutes before it really does, leave the iPhone in the car, and pay attention to your child’s athleticism, and interactions with other athletes and the adults. Talk about it on the way home.

Can’t do it all on your own? Team up with another working parent with a child on the same team and take turns doing this—and be sure to cheer on all kids. Be wary of teams or clubs that overly restrict parental access to practices or coaching sessions.  I suggest that teams add a new volunteer role to their roster, along with snack-parent, or car-pool parent —   add a ‘stand-parent’, whose job it is to be in the stand keeping an eye out for any child whose parents could not be there.   You’re not just taking my word here about the importance of  knowing that a grown-up is watching; this warning and advice comes straight from the mouths of convicted child molesters I interviewed, whose perspectives helped inform my books.

Background checks, great policies and even certain laws might help, but nothing is more important than the watchful eyes of an aware, loving and communicative adult.

Dr. Janet Rosenzweig is the Executive Director of  The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children  and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent  and   The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children.  For more information, read her blog , follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.
originally publisher at   http://www.philly.com/philly/health/kids-families/Sexual-misconduct-in-youth-sports-What-can-parents-do.html

Poverty and child well being – how you can help!

In early 2016,  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)  recommended that all pediatricians screen for poverty in children, hoping to reduce the toxic effects of poverty on children’s health.  AAP researchers produced a policy brief that is a must-read for any student of health, economics or public policy, but it contains important lessons for all of us.

 Poverty weighs on parents in ways both subtle and obvious. For example, a Yale study found that low income mothers who could not afford diapers are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety interfere with the ability to respond emotionally to a baby and such response is a most critical role of a parent to help promote early brain development. Poor nutrition, substandard housing, and living in a high-crime neighborhood – all side effects of poverty – place burdens on a child’s physical and mental health.

More than a quarter of the population of Philadelphia, including one-third of all children, live below the poverty level, and Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate among the nation’s 10 largest cities.  Poverty is not always obvious; the economic downturn of recent years has brought poverty to suburbia in unprecedented numbers.

While the AAP recommends specific screening tools for pediatricians to use in their practices, each of us can look closely to see where we might lend a hand. Decades ago, if a neighbor noticed a hungry family, she might send over a casserole; now, too often the temptation is to call Child Protective Services and report neglect. It’s time to reverse that practice. Each of us can offer compassionate and dignified support to a friend, neighbor, or relative who may need it. A meal, a week’s worth of groceries, a carton of diapers now and then can make a difference to a family.

Years ago when my son was around 12-years-old and I was a divorced grad student, my son spent an afternoon at the home of a friend. When I went to pick him up, I learned that he had enthusiastically eaten anything and everything the hostess Mom offered. Hostess Mom gently suggested that if there wasn’t enough food in my house, she’d be happy to send an extra lunch to school each day with her son for mine. She didn’t know that I had good job, and my son was just being a voracious pre-teen, but her concern, compassion, and tact could be a model for anyone. If being that personal doesn’t suit your style, support efforts of your religious community or local anti-poverty organizations who share the mission of alleviating the effects of poverty on a child’s development.

Some pediatricians may respond to the AAP’s recommendation by noting how little time they already have to spend with patients and the increasing demands placed on their practices. Perhaps as the health insurance industry recognizes the toxic, long term effects of poverty on child health poverty screening will be come as routine as vison and hearing screening.

In the meantime, “screen” the children and families in your life to see where you can help. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, the perfect time to ask yourself what else you can do to support the great childhoods all children deserve.

Rosenzweig is also author of The Sex-Wise Parent and The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children. For more information, read her blog  and follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter.

 

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/How-we-all-can-fight-the-effects-of-poverty.html#RjmKYU0VMdMyRR8P.99

Spring break advice from a sex-wise  parent to teen–

Spring break advice from a sex-wise parent to teen–

Whether your teen is anxiously awaiting their departure to a tropical paradise or snow covered peaks, you may be equally anxious about their health and safety on their trip.  Find the time for a bon voyage conversation that shares your love and concern, along with practical advice.  To help you make the best use of the limited time your child is likely to share with you, I’ve prepared things a sex-wise parent might have on their agenda:

I want you to have a wonderful time. Surround yourself with people who you admire and trust, and keep a careful distance from others. 

I want you to be safe, so use these tips business travelers follow:  Drink a lot of water and stay hydrated!   When you get to your hotel, don’t let strangers see your room number when you check in.   No matter how great the reputation of your hotel or resort, move around the facility with a friend and keep your valuables with you at all time. Trust your instincts about people getting too close to you physically. NEVER leave a drink unattended.

I want you to stay healthy.   Carefully pack required prescriptions and keep them with you on the plane.   Find an option with protein at every meal.  Use sun screen. Stretch carefully before physical exertion like a run or day on the slopes.  Stay away from unlicensed attractions, like parasailing companies not associated with your hotel.

I want you to remember that drugs and alcohol make you stupid. Being in a different city country where access to drugs or alcohol is unrestricted may make you feel more mature.  You’re not.  Make concrete rules now, before you go, while you’re sober and stick to them.  Have a 12 ounce glass of water or club soda between every alcoholic drink. Don’t smoke anything if you don’t know the source. Ingest no pills or powders; you just don’t know the composition.  Rotate among your friends the role of designated sober person to keep watch over each other.

I want you to remember that sexual arousal just happens, and it comes a part of the brain that is very far away from the part where executive decision making happens.  Do not let your genitalia make a decision about sharing body parts with a stranger.  The list of risks run from being robbed to getting a STI.  Make a pact with your friends not to let anyone leave the group, and be prepared to make a scene if someone tries.

I want you to call me immediately if something goes wrong.   I will help first and ask questions later because I love you.

I want you to treat yourself with the same care and respect you would show if you were taking care of your younger sibling or best friend.

I want you to have a wonderful time, and if you stay safe and healthy, I know you will.

Dr. Janet Rosenzweig is the Vice President, Research and Programs for Prevent Child Abuse America and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent  and   The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children.    For more information, read her blog , follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.

 

This  post origionally appeared  in the Healthy Kids blog for Philly.com  bit.ly/1Szt1PI

Whats the true rate of abuse in youth serving agencies? What parents need to know…

As a parent, you’ve probably heard enough stories about child abuse in sports teams and youth organizations to make your head spin. A study published online today in JAMA Pediatrics offers both good news and cause for some concern when it comes to the rate of abuse in these groups.

This good news is that this study, whose authors are among the most respected names in child abuse research, finds sexual abuse in youth-serving organizations to be relatively rare. The researchers combined data from three national population telephone surveys to create a sample of 13,052 children, ranging from infants to age 17.

Less than 1 percent of all children report any type of abuse in “youth-serving organizations such as schools and religious/recreational groups” and only 6.4 percent of that number report sexual abuse. While this is a thankfully low percentage, it tells us that as many as 100,000 kids may experience sexual abuse in a youth serving organization and that prevention efforts by these organizations and all parents must continue.

Results from this study left me with an unanticipated area of concern: Of the children who reported abuse in a youth-serving agency or organization, 64 percent of the abuse by an adult was verbal or emotional. Based on this study, it’s estimated that up to 1 million kids could answer yes to the question: “Did you get scared or feel really bad because grown-ups in your life called you names, said mean things to you, or said they didn’t want you?” Emotional abuse, or bullying by an adult in a youth-serving organization, is 10 times more prevalent than sexual abuse, and the scars can be deep and long lasting. This is unacceptable, and is a call to action for parents.

Parents should consider action on two fronts: with their children and with their youth organizations. First, open communication with their children should include a conversation making it clear that coaches and other adults may say things are difficult to hear sometimes, but remarks from a good coach make a child want to work harder and do better, not make them feel bad or unwanted. Parents should encourage their children to share any concerns about a coach or staff members’ behavior or language.

Secondly, parents and caregivers should also investigate the policies and procedures of any organization serving their children. Learn the basics like how staff and volunteers are screened and trained, but don’t stop there. Most youth sports teams have specific volunteer or required roles to help the team operate, like “snack parent” or “equipment parent.” As the next team season approaches, think about collaborating with other parents to develop a rotating schedule for a “stand parent”, an adult to attend each game or practice to watch from the stands and cheer for each player, while keeping an eye and ear open for inappropriate treatment of kids by staff and volunteers.

Child abuse statistics are notoriously inexact for many reasons, including difficulty identifying people to count, and wide variations in definitions. Last week, the federal government released its major annual report which shows a much lower count of all types of child abuse than the estimates reported in the JAMA article. The federal report only counts children where the abuse is both known to the public child protection agency, and if the abuse appears to be serious enough to meet each state’s legal definition.

The study reported in JAMA this week uses a very different, but critical definition: does a child feel as if they have been abused.  There are hundreds of thousands of children who feel the scar from some type of abuse and there’s no public agency on the way to help.  Every caring adult can do their part in counteracting that by being a loving, respectful, and trustworthy presence in the lives of all children about whom they care.

All children deserve great childhoods, and all adults have a role to play in making sure that happens. These two reports remind us just how much farther we have to go to ensure safe and healthy childhoods for all.

 

Dr. Janet Rosenzweig is the Vice President, Research and Programs for Prevent Child Abuse America and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent  and   The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children.    For more information, read her blog , follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.

 

 

Help Kids Have a Safe and Healthy New Years Eve!

Help Kids Have a Safe and Healthy New Years Eve!

Many families plan big celebrations for New Year’s Eve, and many kids may think they’ve outgrown spending such a social evening with their parents. Separating from parents and individuating socially and physically is a key part of growing up, and planning for New Year’s Eve together can provide an opportunity to strengthen the foundation for sexual health and safety of your children.

School aged kids may be old enough to celebrate with sleepovers at a friend’s house. In this case, make sure you have accurate information about the host parents plans for the evening. Know every person who will be in the house and spending the night, both kids and adults. Parents hosting the party may be inviting their adult friends to spend the night as well as the friends of their children; that could potentially expose a vulnerable child to an intoxicated stranger.

I strongly recommend that sleepovers operate under a “check your cellphone at the door” rule. Even when you’ve reminded your children how much your family values honesty and respect, sleepy kids facing peer pressure can forget your values quicker than you can say “Instagram”.

Teens may want to emulate the celebrations they see in the media. Like prom night, New Year’s Eve can be a night where high expectations for a special occasion can cloud judgment. If your teens will be going out, make sure they have a plan for the evening, have them share the plan with you and set up a check -in mechanism so you can be sure that they stick to the plan.

Remind teens that your family’s values include staying sober, and making conscious, deliberate decisions about sexual activity. The pre-party or big-date discussion might also include a reminder about the physiology of sexual arousal; arousal is an autonomic response to stimulation and a sign that a growing body is working properly. Arousal is not an invitation or permission slip to be sexually active. This is also the right time to remind your child that your family’s values do not include pressuring anyone into any sexual act.

People of all ages may use New Year’s Eve as an excuse to drink alcohol. A toast may be considered socially acceptable for adults, but for kids it’s still underage drinking with all of the risks that implies. Parents can be criminally liable for enabling underage drinking and your pre-party chat should remind your child about the stupidity of getting into a car with someone who has been drinking.

New Year’s Eve is a good time to introduce a promise to your teen that they can call you to come pick them up, any time, any place with no questions asked until the next morning. This promise can life-saving; one bad judgment by your teen or one of their friends may place them in a place or situation that they need help getting out of. If that happens, you want to be a phone call away; your teen should not have to weigh the dangers of your temper against the dangers of their situation.

The littlest children will be at home, but thought needs to be given to their wellbeing if parents plan to celebrate. Demonstrate your value of placing your children first on your priority list by having a designated parent-in-charge so a child will always have access to a sober, attentive parent when they need one. If you plan to go out, be sure to thoroughly vet the baby sitter and leave hard and fast rules about visitors, celebration and kids’ bedtimes. Get accurate information about what’s happening in your house by calling home; enjoy a video-chat and send New Year’s greeting to your kids!

The best recipe for growing sexually safe and healthy kids is based on parents sending their kids out in the world filled with accurate information wrapped up in that family’s values. Special events when a child might think that every day rules don’t apply present an important opportunity for parents to a have their say, and now is the time to prepare for your child’s New Year’s celebration.

Dr. Janet Rosenzweig is the Vice President, Research and Programs for Prevent Child Abuse America and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent  and   The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children.    For more information, read her blog , follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.

 

 

Make Holiday Hugs  a Child’s Choice!

Make Holiday Hugs a Child’s Choice!

Learning to set and hold boundaries is an important life skill. Adults without boundaries are routinely taken advantage of by others because they lack the skill set it takes to say “no” in various situations. Many don’t even realize they have a choice when asked to do something: They become “people pleasers,” responding to the needs and requests of others often without considering the cost to themselves. Holding personal boundaries and respecting those of others is a critical component of sexual health and safety, and it’s never too early to teach and model healthy assertiveness for our kids.

The only girl in my college dorm who had a car had just that problem. She never refused anyone who asked for a ride, no matter how inconvenient it was for her. Eventually, after she and I became pretty close friends, I asked her for a lift and to my surprise she said no, offering the explanation that she could only say no to her friends because they already liked her. She should have been able to assert herself to everyone, and her inability to do so with people who were not her friends could have led her into trouble.

Assertiveness training was a popular trend in the 1970s and 1980s. Books with titles such as Your Perfect Right1 or Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No2 became bestsellers, the concepts embraced by millions of readers. Assertiveness training offers strategies to stand up for your rights while respecting the rights of others. Use this concept as inspiration when promoting assertiveness in young children and teens as a tool for keeping their bodies and psyches healthy and safe; support kids learning to stand up for themselves while respecting others.

“But Grandmom needs a hug for the holidays!” exclaims your spouse. Maybe she does, but the needs of the adults never take priority over the needs of a child. If an adult says she “needs” a hug, that magnifies the reasons for a child to have permission to keep her boundaries. Children are not meant to meet the needs of adults; nature has designed things to be the other way around. When adults forget that, children can be at risk.

Talking with your children about setting and keeping boundaries is just another way of describing the act of standing up for one’s rights; parents can teach kids what their rights are and give them the skills, and the permission, to stand up for themselves as protection against boundary-pushers of all types — peers, as well as adults. Consider teaching school-aged children to respond to a request for a hug or a kiss by offering a warm smile and a handshake if that’s what they’d prefer.

A critical part of human development is individuating, which means becoming someone who is separate and different from others. As infants, children are attached to the adults who nurture and nourish them —they come into the world with no boundaries at all. As they become toddlers, some boundaries begin to develop, but don’t mistake ego-centrism (the belief that the world revolves around them) for boundaries. Just because a child can yell “mine!” when someone wants one of her toys does not mean she has the maturity to set and keep social or bodily boundaries; these are very different skillsets and concepts. Little ones need the adults who love them to respect and protect their boundaries for them.

Parents can start teaching children bodily boundaries by the age of two or three. Teaching by example is most effective, and one of the best examples is allowing a child to decide with whom they will share physical affection. Be warm and polite about it, but support your child in holding boundaries that keep them feeling safe and comfortable. Grandmom will suffer no ill effects from a polite and charming declining of a hug, and in fact should commend your child’s ability to think for himself!

 

Dr. Janet Rosenzweig is the Vice President, Research and Programs for Prevent Child Abuse America and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent  and   The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children.    For more information, read her blog , follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.

 

Helping kids understand the meaning of Halloween costumes

Helping kids understand the meaning of Halloween costumes

 

Parents are in the final throes of preparing for Halloween, buying candy, decorating their houses and in too many families fighting over costumes that make a parent cringe.

Whether the costume makes a politically-incorrect statement or projects an image you can’t stomach (Miley twerking, anyone?) Halloween can present some important teaching moments.  Even if you ultimately ban the costume with a strong “because I said so” you can get a few points across during the debate.

Girls especially are pressured into appearing sexual at young ages, exposed by the media to baby bikinis and padded bras for eight-year-olds. Boys may need  help understanding what is really conveyed by the tough-guy looks or dressing  as a character known for violence.  A common problem among latency aged, pre-sexual kids is that they may know that a certain type of look is equated with being attractive without understanding that it has a sexual  or dangerously violent connotation. When a nine-year-old girl chooses a Halloween costume with a decidedly “hooker-ish” look, a parent needs to supplement their “no” with a justification.   Explaining to kids that certain kinds of  clothes carry a certain kind of message (one that is not always appropriate for their age) is a good place to start. Consider using  a uniform as an example.   “When you wear shin guards, I know you’re getting ready to play soccer”.   You can then continue on and explain to a school-aged child that a particular look is seen by some people as a uniform to “kiss” or “flirt” or some other term in that will make a nine-year-old think, “Yuck.”

Older kids may think they know exactly the message they are conveying with their costume and are happy to do so.  In that case a Sex-Wise Parent makes it clear that “this is not a message we allow in our family.  It does not support your sexual health and safety, which is very important to me.”

This  is also a good time to remind our kids, particularly adolescents, that a persons attire NEVER is to be taken as an invitation for sexual contact.    If your teen reminds you that those two messages sound like they contradict each other  remind them that not everyone understands  or lives by the  latter point.

We must let our kids know that there are some rules we’ll bend on Halloween, like how much chocolate they can have in a single day, and other rules that are hard and fast.   They don’t get a day off from thinking about the messages they send  about their sexuality.

For more information, see The Sex-Wise Parent!

Kids and Trauma:  Science Trumps Handcuffs

Kids and Trauma: Science Trumps Handcuffs

There has been lot of buzz about a video shot last year of a Kentucky deputy sheriff handcuffing an 8-year-old schoolboy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) . Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the deputy for this incident and a similar cuffing involving a 9-year-old girl.

The video is almost a caricature of how not to deal with children, and it should prompt parents to ask a simple and important question:

Even if the personnel at my child’s school wouldn’t think of calling the police if he acted out, would they know the right way to handle him?

There are a host of reasons why your child might misbehave. While this child’s acting out is attributed to his diagnosis of ADHD, a problem faced by about  10 percent of American children, all children risk exposure to traumatic events that can result in acting out. For example:

  • One of five children may experience some type of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday, and in about a quarter of those cases, the abuse will be from another child or adolescent.
  • More than 1.5 million children experience their parents’ divorce each year, meaning up to 20 million children experience parental divorce before they reach age 18.
  • At any point in time, almost 3 million children under 18 have an incarcerated parent, meaning that as many as 10 million children suffer the incarceration of a parent before they reach age 18.

Each of these experiences is considered an Adverse Childhood Experience, or ACE, and long-term studies supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that these experiences can have both immediate and lifelong effect on social and emotional health. And new research   is expanding the list of ACEs, demonstrating that poverty, racism, and other experiences have the same negative effects on social, emotional, and physical health as the original eight ACEs identified more than a decade ago. ACEs can be a cause for dramatic changes in a child’s behavior, with boys being more likely to act out and girls being more likely to quietly internalize the pain, and thus staying under the radar.

Children who have not been alive long enough to experience ACEs still are at risk for environmental circumstances impacting their brain development and therefore potentially their behavior. For example, research shows that that inadequate nurturing and exposure to constant stress can cause structural changes in how a baby’s brain develops and how a child learns to react to her environment.

Enlightened educators and caregivers understand the relationship between the word discipline and disciple, embracing concepts like trauma informed practices and social-emotional learning to intervene with troubled young people. There are  great resources to support this work   and parents would be wise to determine if the schools and agencies serving their children have brought these resources home.

As a former public official, my standard always was that if a program or policy wasn’t good enough for my child, it wasn’t good enough for anyone’s child. As a citizen, I challenge parents to ensure that kids in their school district who act out due to disability or trauma are treated with evidenced-based strategies to help them recover and grow.  As Frederick Douglas said almost two centuries ago “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” It’s also more humane.

The next crying child could be yours. Don’t you want him to be treated properly?

 

This post first appeared at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Kids-and-trauma-Science-trumps-handcuffs-.html

Mutual consent laws?  Parental advice has much  more to offer!

Mutual consent laws? Parental advice has much more to offer!

 

Consent for sex is in the news these days – from Bill Cosby’s acknowledgement to using drugs which removed partners’ capability to consent, to proposed mutual consent state laws and campus policies — there is a lot of buzz on this topic and that’s a good thing.

The buzz is turning into initiatives on college campuses and elsewhere to require clear and provable mutual consent before sex, but that solution brings with it another raft of problems. The better solution – which parents can do themselves, today – is to show and teach their children the values of honesty and respect that will make date rape unthinkable.

Parents need to be their children’s primary sex educators.  But unlike the conversations about anatomy and physiology, which I know makes some parents uncomfortable, conversations about honesty and respect should be easy to have.

And you’re probably doing some of it already.

We start with the youngest of kids when we teach them not to take things that don’t belong to them. We teach them to think about the effect their behaviors have on others.  We teach them to be kind and honest, and we teach them to stand up for themselves if they are being taken advantage of.   And as they grow up, we hope they will develop good judgement.  That doesn’t happen overnight and there’s a good reason why.

In his book aptly entitled Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen[1]Dr. David Walsh says that modern neuroscience provides a window into some of the mysteries of the teen years. He says “because the prefrontal cortex’s (PFC) wiring is incomplete, the adolescent’s PFC can’t always distinguish between a good decision and a bad one, no matter how smart a kid is.”  Couple this undeveloped ability to assess risk and make good decisions with hormonally induced physical urges and appetites, and we see that kids need adult guidance now more than ever and want it less, making parenting a challenge.

 

Brain development continues into the early twenties; we are sending kids off to college before their capacity for judgement is fully formed. Situations that arise from  bad judgement, like substance abuse and  ill-considered sex  on campuses is certainly not news; the American College Health Association has been promoting programmatic solutions to these issues for at least three decades, and many campuses take advantage of  proven tactics to reduce  out of control behavior.

 

What is new now is that we are finally  talking about  sexual coercion and  ways to make it stop;  the calls for  consent laws and polices is a sign that this behavior is no longer tolerable.

Social media is filled with expressions of disgust at entitled,  high-status males helping themselves to the sexual acts with  females incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.

 

Whether it’s TV’s favorite Dad or a college football team, its variations on a theme and the mood is right to make it stop. Parents can step up and be the heroes here who raise children to live by the values that abhor this behavior.  When teens are in situations where their undeveloped sense of judgement may be overcome by hormones and alcohol, they need sober peers and adults in their life to monitor their behavior.  And if parents aren’t physically present, their values can be there with their child.  When tempted  to do something stupid there’s nothing wrong with a parents voice resonating a  young man’s  head  saying “that’s not how we  behave in our family”.

 

Consent laws are also a new idea, but as well-intentioned as they are, consent laws are essentially unenforceable and may also have some unintended consequences. Recorded consent to sexual acts may go viral and do as much damage as a physical act.  A wide net may be cast and trap people who had no ill intent.

 

The best thing about the proposed consent laws and polices is  that they’re starting a starting some very important discussions.  The best prevention comes from parents’ expression, in word and deed, that sex is an expression of a relationship between two people whose consent is never coerced.

 

Dr. Janet Rosenzweig is the Vice President, Research and programs for Prevent Child Abuse America and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent  and   The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children.    For more information, read her blog , follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.



[1] David Walsh Why Do They Act That Way? Free Press, NY 2004

 

This post originally appeared at  http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Mutual-consent-laws–can-we-legislate-intimate-conversations-.html