Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We’re Not Raising Our Children; Society Is

Yesterday on my radio show, “Relationships 101,” I interviewed psychotherapist J.E. Wright, author of The Sexualization of America’s Kids. He specializes in treating children and adolescents who have been victimized by the sexualized messages with which they are bombarded daily. Unfortunately, those messages generally are not from their parents or other responsible adults. Rather, they come from television, their peers wwho are just as confused as they are, the Internet, social media and MTV. And the more parents are unaware of this, the more they are unable to appropriately protect their children from this barrage of distorted messages.

One of the net effects of this situation is that these media have contorted children’s barometer of what is normal. “Dials” on kids’ heads that once told them what was normal and what was not, when it comes to sex and sexuality, have been twisted into a new normal. And that new normal isn’t all that healthy, unless parents intervene and offer alternatives to the messages their kids receive from the culture. Too often, the result is sexting, random oral sex parties, and skiddle parties where kids set out whatever drugs they can get their hands on like adults set out chips and dip.

What is a parent to do? Parents, take heart. There are several things you can do to prevent your kids being confused and programmed by sexually titillating material with which they are inundated. One is to teach your kids about normal sexuality at home by modeling it. For example, it can be helpful to step from the shower to your bedroom naked. This helps children realize the nude body is not so mysterious. Have conversations with children about what they think of a particular commercial and why they think sexy, beautiful women frequently are seen in car commercials. Regularly dialogue with their kids from the time they are young, even though they most likely will be uncomfortable and resistant at first. If so, ask if you can talk with them about it in a few days. This lets them know that you are interested in talking with and listening to them without it disintegrating into a fight.

If that doesn’t work and if a child begins to act out his confusion at school or with other children, it is essential that you seek professional help. Otherwise, this dangerous behavior can become a calcified pattern that your child may well bring into adulthood. Then the consequences of this confusion may be much more significant and dangerous.

Be sure to tune in to “Relationships 101” next Monday, when I will speak with psychotherapist Jeff Ford on “Internet Addiction.”

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