Feeling powerless is a devastating to deal with. I have been there at times in my life; feeling like I was at the bottom of a dark and deep hole with someone or something else throwing dirt on top of me, burying me alive. Being a young child can often lead to feeling powerless because they are not in control of their own well being. They can not defend themselves or create a different destiny when adults have the control and the final say. As a child I remember times when I felt this way especially when it came to helping those I loved and being too young to take control or make a difference. Having children of my own took feeling powerless to a whole new fear level. Now I was the one making the judgement calls and calling the shots for an individual person! A human being that was entrusted to my care to be everything he/she needs and provide for their wants. To protect them and guide them and raise them “right”. Most of the time I have felt confident and competent. More often than not I believe in myself and in my heart I know that every decision I have made in life since the very first pregnancy test came back positive has been 100% directed by what I decide is best for my children. From what I ate when I was pregnant to helping them establish their after high school goals and everything in between has been a beautiful labor of love and source of pure joy to me. I am not perfect of course. I am humble and have asked my children for forgiveness when it was deserved. I have also raised them to know that of the good and the bad that I give them in genetics and life (nature and nurture), it is their responsibility to take everything and make themselves the people that they wish to become as adults.
The times that have been the most frightening are the times that my children have been exposed to things that I never wished for them to see. Once something is in a persons brain it is planted there and affects the way the brain thinks and views the world. I wanted my children to have knowledge and kindness in their world with plenty of “real life” tragedies for later (as they got older). I never let my children watch scary movies because I did not want them to refer to those feelings or images during childhood. Imagine the distress and despair I felt when my young son came home from a friends house having seen part of a horror film that the older kids thought would be a funny prank. My son had to sleep in our room, was frightened to go places in our own home alone…his innocence was taken from him in a matter of minutes that caused about 4 years of fear. Again a situation happened when he was at the park playing in a safe area with friends in 6th grade. An older kid came up to my son and his friend asking how much money they had in their pockets. The older child took their money and gave the boys a baggie of herbs that he told them was marijuana. My son raced home and burst in the door pale faced and scared that he had just bought drugs and would be sent to jail. We had the drug talk of course many times at that point and although we had role played about saying “no” to drugs, he felt helpless in the face of a frightening bully.
There are far worse atrocities that children face than the two I mentioned about my own son. My point is that even something as small as seeing something inappropriate has a lasting, dark impression and controls the way they operate as people in the world. It is also my point to convey that as parents or care givers it is a moral and ethical responsibility to protect children’s emotional and mental purity and safety. Yet, even as we try we must know that they world is not perfect and we must also be equipped for rendering damage control. The severity of any situation is certainly relative to each child with their unique personality traits, previous knowledge and experiences. But here are general ways to Prolong and Protect Childhood Innocence.
1.) Keep children away from content that is not age appropriate. This includes negative news stories. Studies show that when young children view the same news story over and over they think that the event is happening in real time each time. Even when children are told that things are “pretend” (like scary movies or violent video games) they can verbally agree that it is pretend, but they are unable cognitively to know that it isn’t a normal part of real life. Compound the visual scenes with the emotion of music or human reactions and it drives deep into a child.
2.) Raise children in a confident, loving and positive manner from infancy to adulthood so that they learn resilience. Being consistent in your methods of positive parenting teaches children that the world is a place that can be managed through making decisions that derive the desired outcomes. For example, a child falls down and cries. A loving and confident parent helps the child up, talks tenderly and assures the child that they are alright and that falls sometimes happen in the world. An insecure parent over exaggerates the event as if it were a tragedy and treats the child as if they need to be rescued. A negative parent scolds the child for being clumsy, or says “you’re fine” and waves the child off. This same concept can be transferred to older children with homework and teens with driving, for example.
3.) Be honest and educate to an age appropriate level when problems and negative situations arise. being honest does not mean revealing every detail. It means giving a child the amount of true information that they can handle for their age and their temperament. Two children of the same age and gender may see the world in different ways and internalize feelings entirely differently. Each child and situation is unique so really knowing your child is key to dealing with raising them in the real world.
Lets say that a parent is hospitalized for drug abuse.
You would tell a very young child that the person loves them and is sick and will get help to get better soon.
You might have the young child make a picture for the sick parent and tell them that their kindness is certainly appreciated by all.
You might tell an older child that the person loves them but has a sickness that causes them to not make good decisions until they get help from the doctors. You might assist the child in writing a letter about how he/she feels to evoke honesty and to assess where the child is at mentally and emotionally to give them proper support.
You might tell a teen that the parent has drug issues and is trying to get help so that they can meet the needs of their family. You could have a frank discussion about drugs, addiction and life choices that effect the self and the world around us. Make sure to support their expressing their feelings and be available to talk and answer questions.
Lucky for children they are equipped with a resiliency that can help and heal them from life’s tragedies. Raising children that are aware, thoughtful and self-confident will help in the times that resiliency is needed to recover from a bad situation. And most importantly, raising a child to know in their heart and mind that they are loved unconditionally, supported and protected by the adults in their lives makes them more likely to find strength within themselves as well.
There is a popular saying and true statement that goes like this. . .”shi!*happens”. Kids need to know that “life happens” and it is their decisions that control how they come out stronger, smarter and more responsible. They can’t do it alone. Our children need respectable models, sincere kindness, loving support and nurturing opportunities to learn how to deal with life as it comes their way everyday. We must view the world in the way we want our children to view it and help them navigate with success.