Safer Internet Day was last week, and we shared some useful resources from www.webwise.ie on helping children to stay safe online. There is a much bigger issue around safety, however, and how we support our children to make good choices to keep themselves safe, both online and in real life.
We all want our children to be able to make their way in the world, to take chances and to really enjoy their lives. This will inevitably include making some mistakes and poor choices. Our instinct as parents can be to try to protect our children at all costs and shield them from the risk of failure or hurt. Below are some ideas on how to get the balance right—protecting our children while allowing them the freedom to make their own choices and take responsibility for their actions.
- Communication. It always comes back to this with parenting. The more time we spend with our children really listening to what they are saying (verbally and non-verbally), the better able we will be to really understand and respond to their needs. This doesn’t mean grilling them every day for the full details of their day; it just means finding some time each day to check in with them and. It means stopping what we are doing when they approach us and giving them our full attention.
- Get to Know their Friends. One of the best ways to really understand what is happening in your child’s world is to get to know their friends and welcome them in to your home. Your child will see you supporting their need for a life outside the home and you will get to see another side of their life.
- Share your Experiences (within reason!) As parents, we sometimes feel like we need to be wise, old rocks, when the truth is that most of us are still trying to figure everything out. We were all young once, and most of us have plenty of mistakes in our past. Talk to your children about a time when you were confused about the right thing to do and what you did—let them see that even if you made mistakes, you learned from them.
- Don’t Judge. You want to make sure that your child will come and talk to you when they have made mistakes or poor choices. Your instinct might be to panic or shout, but try to take a deep breath, listen to what they are saying and let them know that you are on their side. Then, you can start to talk to them about making things right.
- Have Consistent and Fair Consequences. Talk to your child beforehand about what you expect from them and let them know what will happen if they don’t follow the rules. Be consistent with consequences and follow through, but make sure that the consequence fits the crime. Try not to threaten punishments in the heat of the moment.
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick, a network of parenting and family support organisations in Limerick. For more information on this and other topics go to www.loveparenting.ie.