Needless to say with parenthood comes great responsibility. You are shaping the future of your children and are constantly bombarded with do‘s and don’ts. Make sure they get enough exercise and healthy foods straightforward you think until you try to prise a reluctant child off the couch and on to their bike.
Make sure they eat their five a day - no problem you think until you see a toddler picking any trace of ‘green’ out of their dinner or declaring (as my 3-year-old did) that he didn’t want his orange because it was too......orange!
My children are still young so the issues I face are usually of a more practical nature. I have yet to face the joy of the teenage years! This is, I suppose, where the rubber meets the road and where you need to work even harder to help your child make good choices and stay safe.
As part of the Healthy Town initiative Dr Sarah O’Doherty, clinical psychologist, gave a talk on raising teenagers. It was interesting to hear the actual science of the developing teenage brain and that there are specific reasons for teenagers acting and feeling the way they do. There are scientific reasons behind the reckless decisions and mood swings of the average teenager - not a shock to many parents I am sure.
One issue Dr O’Doherty touched on was that of children online and she mentioned online bullying specifically. It is increasingly difficult for parents to look after the welfare of their kids for a variety of reasons.
Firstly there is a conflict between wanting to afford kids some privacy as they get older versus being aware of what and who they are encountering online. Added to this there is the issue of anonymity online which makes it more difficult to deal with any problems.
I am not a particularly technical person so I feel there is an added dimension in that my children will be on websites and social media pages that I would be unaware of or unsure how they work. Dr O’Doherty quite rightly said that it is not good enough to throw up your hands and declare that you “don’t know”. We must keep informed and current and try to strike the balance betweenl protecting our kids from harm and being over-protective and stifling.
I am very aware that children can access highly inappropriate material online pretty easily. While researching online is a marvellous resource it only takes a couple of clicks to accidentally happen upon information or images that are totally unsuitable. You Tube is a prime example.
For instance, I like that my kids enjoy music and love certain songs but I don’t want my impressionable kids to watch the videos for songs like Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines or Miley Cyrus’ latest hit. It is easier for me to manage this as my kids are young and the laptop is mine but for older kids who might have their own laptop or iPad it must be very tough to manage.
There were a number of things I took from the talk that I will work to apply in my own family. As much as ensuring exercise and healthy eating are building a foundation for the future health of my kids I think there are other healthy habits that can be initiated now.
The most important it would seem from Dr O’Doherty’s advice is working on constant communication so that you keep very involved and connected with what is going on in kids lives. Additionally, putting boundaries in place now so that it makes life easier for everyone down the line - whether it is rules around mobile phone usage or, crucially, Internet access.
On a more practical note it is also building habits now like cleaning their own rooms so it is not a shock when they hit their teens!
The stark reality of the fact that I will at one point have four teenagers in my house is dawning on me......and making me nervous!
I wonder will I still marvel at the complexities of the human brain when the doors are slamming, my kids are grunting at me and the hormones are raging around my home??