Growing up too soon?
Christal Deloach of Ridgeland is the proud mom of two tweens ages 10 and 12. Her son and daughter are typical kids and want the same things as all the other kids.
She says that she has to put her foot down sometimes because she loves them.
“I don’t want them to grow up too soon. There’s a lot of information that’s out there. There’s a lot of things they can be exposed to prematurely. I want to make sure they enjoy their time as children as long as possible because once you grow up, that’s over. Then come the responsibilities – and there’s no turning back.”
Catherine Walsh, a licensed psychologist in Mount Pleasant, says it’s normal for parents to struggle with deciding the right time to give their children new responsibilities and information, and there isn’t a universal standard for the right time.
She says families should decide when the child is ready.
“Some children might be capable of taking on certain things, while others aren’t.”
She suggests having a non-argumentative discussion when a child approaches a parent with a question or a request. Let the child voice her opinion and give reasons why she should be able to take on the new responsibility. Let her present her case. If the child is a part of the decision-making process she’s more likely to abide by the final decision.
Trial periods are an option as well, she says, to see how they handle new responsibilities.
Deloach says both her kids have asked for cell phones.
She hasn’t given either of them one yet but is using the possibility of getting them phones as a teaching tool. If they prove themselves in school and maintain their responsibilities at home, she will consider letting her kids have the cell phones – but it’s up to the kids.
“I feel there is a responsibility that accompanies cell phones. and it’s not their right to have one – it would be a privilege.”
Walsh says this is common; all children want a cell phone and will ask for it by middle school. If a child does have a cell phone, she recommends parents have kids turn it in at night “or they’ll be on it all night long.”
Walsh even suggests going as far not allowing children to send text messages because of the explosion of cyber-bullying. Vicious, anonymous mean things are being said and passed around, she says.
If texting is allowed, parents should constantly talk to their children about bullying. It’s important to stay on top of the issue in the event they are the bullies.
“Kids that are doing the bullying are actually more at risk of having a more
difficult adult adjustment than those who are being bullied because they are learning negative ways to influence people.”
Deloach is very strict when it comes to the video games her children play.
“That is something we do talk about a lot. I do not allow them to play video games that have “M” for Mature. Of course they don’t really like the “E” for Everyone games, but I do feel like those ratings are appropriate.”
Finding the right movies and games can be difficult, she says. Video games can be extremely violent, but there are ways to ensure the games kids are playing are age-appropriate, Walsh says. “The industry standards for games and movies are there for a reason.”
Patricia Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), says not all video games are made for children, and there are ways parents can monitor the games their children play.
The ESRB is a self-regulated rating system that monitors video game marketing, ensuring games are marketed responsibly and accurately. It rates video games by their content, including violence, sex and offensive verbal or bodily language. It is a voluntary system, but virtually all video games sold in retail stores carry an ESRB rating, Vance says.
“It’s very important for parents to know that the average age of a gamer today is 35, so not all games are created for kids. That’s why the ratings are so important.”
The rating system has two parts. A rating symbol on the front of the game box indicates age-appropriateness. It’s important, however, to turn the box around and look at the back.
“On the back the symbol is found again, but next to it are content descriptors, which inform a parent about content they might be concerned about or content that may have triggered that particular rating category assignment.”
Heather Woolwine of Charleston says her daughter wanted to start wearing makeup in the fourth grade.
“She’s always loved to play with it. I let her use a little bit of powder and lip gloss sometimes.”
Woolwine thinks wearing makeup is a novelty thing for young girls, symbolizing becoming a “big girl.” Woolwine let Jessica wear lipstick to the fifth grade dance.
“It’s so funny how in certain areas she just really wants to be so much older. But then in others, she’s still a little girl.”
Now, at times, it can be a struggle with 11-year-old Jessica.
“I don’t want her to think she has to have makeup to be pretty,” Woolwine says. “She’s so pretty without it.”
She tells her daughter that she doesn’t need makeup and explains that it could clog her pores. She said they’ll revisit the makeup issue in eighth or ninth grade.
And even then it’s not going to be full-on eyeliner and mascara – all that stuff.
“We’re going to do this in stages. And as much as she doesn’t like that, she’s resigned to that’s just the facts.”
Walsh says parents should talk about sex with their children while they are fairly young – as early as fifth grade. Girls tend to begin developing early, so it’s a good idea to start the dialogue sooner rather than later.
“Our society is so sexualized now, and they are so much more exposed.”
One way to approach it, she says, is to just sit down and talk. Explain your child that this is one way parents can help. If parents are able to establish trust early on, working through the embarrassment and “ews,” it is much easier for their children to come to them later with questions and or situations.
Walsh says to avoid the “when I was a kid” speech. It’s OK to give examples, but keep them brief and don’t follow up.
“That leaves them to think about it and realize you actually might have a clue as to what they’re going through – as hard as that is to imagine.”
If possible, moms should talk to girls and dads should talk to boys because kids may feel more comfortable talking to a parent of the same gender. *