Single parents face new challenges in the new millenium - challenges that parenting in days gone by didn't have to address.
Sexual activity and sexual orientation must be addressed at earlier and earlier ages. While middle school was considered sufficient to discuss such topics even 10 years ago, today we must address them in elementary school. While we lament the loss of innocence of our children, to ignore the facts only leads to our irresponsibility in addressing their needs and their increased difficulty in life.
Drugs are prevelant. Illegal drugs are easily available on school campuses beginning at elmentary grades. However, illegal drugs are not the onlly issue of concern. Prescription drugs, obtained from mom and dad's medicine cabinet, are a common problem, as are common household chemicals used to "huff" or otherwise abuse for a cheap high. The danger increases with the use of these drugs as our youth do not understand the possible issues of prescription drugs and are outweighing the "high" with damage inflicted to the brain and body of the user.
For some reason, we seem to think that if our children have to deal with such issues, they must be more mature, and many make the common mistake of allowing their children to date at earlier ages. Just because they are forced into such situations, does not mean they are prepared. Dating is still a high pressure event in a young person's life and parents need to set the guidelines and limits.
It is our job to parent. Children, regardless of age, need guidance, education, and a good parent to show them the ropes of society. They need our heartfelt attention to help them deal with peer pressure. They need our words of wisdom - even when they act as if they don't want them - to help them avoid behaviors that can, at times, ruin their lives.
There have been many incidents in the past years that have shocked America in regards to the actions of children. School shootings, increased drug use, increased teen pregnancy, and the abundance of methods in which our children demonstrate that they don't value themselves have often made me ask, "Where are the parents?"
It is hard being a single parent. Time is a valuable commodity and often there isn't enough of it. That is why we have to make the time we have count. We have to fill every minute with a purpose in directing and educating our children. They even need to be taught how to have fun in appropriate manners.
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't see a commercial for a television show that focuses on an issue that we all need to discuss with our kids. Use those shows as the catalyst of a conversation; watch the show together and disucss is as the story unfolds. It is a great way to insure that your child knows your value system while not putting you both through a "lecture" that both of your will find lacks in attention and proper perspective.
There are examples in daily life, as well, that can be used to illustrate your values and the information our children need to remain safe and whole in today's society. Explain the difference between the proper use of prescription meds and drug abuse whenever your child is sick and doctor prescribes medicines. Explain why you are taking medications you have been prescribed and how others might misuse such medications. It is NOT giving them ideas that they may not have already had; it is preparing them for a situation where they may be approached with an offer they aren't sure they should refuse.
Most importantly, LISTEN, to your children. I can never say that enough! LISTENING is the key to every successful conversation with a child. They will pour their hearts out to you is you only listen without judgement and with an open mind and an open heart. They will tell you their fears, their worries, and their dreams for the future, if you will only listen. They will tell you about friends for which they are happy and for which they are concerned. This is not idle talk to them - it is their lives! It is important! It is what they choose to share with you - be prepared to take it seriously, even if you think it ranks rather low on the priority list.
My daughter was very upset recently because a young girl accused a good friend of hers of threatening her. The fact is, the young girl had a crush on this friend and when she found that the boy didn't return those feelings, she was angry. I don't know if she knew that she would get the response she did when she made her accusation, but when she got the attention of the school administration, she played it to the hilt. What starts off as mischief, can quickly become a serious situation. It took much time and parental involvement to straighten out the situation over what many adults would call "irrelevant" feelings of a teen. Had the young girl believed that she could have talked to a parent about her emotions, perhaps the situation would not have gotten so out of hand.
Time is a precious commodity. But what better place to spend it than with your children - they are a precious gift. Give them all they deserve!