Heading into 2015/2016 school year with a 7th grader has been relatively easy for our family. We are realists. We watch the news and pay particular attention to the youth in our area and our children keep us advised about the youth surrounding them. We let our children know about new illegal drugs and news about our neighborhood and throughout the world that can impact our area. Last week we decided to have a talk at the dinner table about the tough choices that tweens and teens have to make on an almost daily basis. It started with a video that we played while spooning out mashed potatoes and passing the beans. Parents were duping their young girls on purpose and video taping their actions when they were caught. What were they doing you ask?
These young women, sixth and seventh graders were befriending what they thought were teenage boys online and then after chatting a few times, meeting them at a park. Of course when they got there, the boys were adults and along with them were the parents, sometimes hidden. A girl even got into a van where she was bombarded with hooded people, two of which were her parents. All to teach them a lesson.
That got the table quiet. Our youngest knew then that the next twenty minutes were probably going to be awkward, intimidating and not real “fun” even though she was having her favorite dinner. I have provided the link so that you too could view what is happening to 1 out of 7 children right now in your neighborhood. Given that statistic, at least one of the girls in my daughters friend group could be in trouble. At least one.
Thankfully, I have a very open relationship with my three children and after just a few moments, the discussion was as free flowing as I’ve ever seen. Was it topics that she was uncomfortable with? Absolutely. Did we quiz her? Many times and she surprised us with answering quickly and gave us some options that we hadn’t thought of ourselves. So for everyone who takes the time to read this, I hope you can ask your tween and teen these questions and help them create a solid plan of action.
What do you do if you are followed, asked to go with anyone while out or approached by a stranger in a car?
Answers by the table: Scream and run to the nearest neighbor that you know. Find a manager of a store or a teacher you trust and let them know you are afraid. If in a mall location or movie theater, seek out a mother with small children and advise her that you are afraid. Know where the security office is at every place you are at and if close, go there immediately.
Here is where it gets tricky with today’s police and official confrontations or situations where you cant react quickly.
What do you do if a police officer, teacher, coach or anyone you know that isn’t in your immediate family tells you to come with them at the request of your parents or go with them because you have done something wrong?
The answer for our family was simple. Keep space between you and the adult. Ask for someone that you trust to go with you. If they will not comply, be suspicious. Ask to call your parents. (we all carry cell phones) Be respectful until its time to make yourself safe. I always picture Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse when he says, “Be nice until its time not to be nice.” Most of your children can realize tension or something out of place fairly quickly.
What if anyone, even if you know them tells you that your parents have given them permission to take you home from school or the outing that you are on?
Another easy one. Ask them for the family password. If they don’t know it, keep that space and say no. Very quickly we, as a family recited that if that password is not issued to you immediately, they don’t have permission. Find a local neighbor, run, scream and while you are doing this, yell Fire, Rape or any word that would draw attention, like a simple help! Thinking fast and kicking to the groin area can also give you time to get away.
Abductions can happen quickly, so we then asked one more question? What can you do if you are grabbed and do not have time to use these options?
I will say that these potential life saving options weren’t the favorite of any of us, however they can be very useful. Scream rape, urinate, induce vomiting using two fingers down your throat.
At that moment, jokes commenced and we lightened the mood for a few moments. It was time to go the House Rules.
We spoke very frankly about what is allowed and what is not allowed during school, with friends, in the hallways and with someone you “like”. They included boyfriends, sharing drinks, taking pills, smoking, sexting, dating, kissing and all things relative. We laid it out on the dinner table like a salty dessert. Again the discussion was fluent and we made sure at the end the most basic need of talking was always, always welcome.
I am quite sure there will be drinking, drugs and sex at her middle school and I am not someone who would think otherwise. To be jaded now in our society is just irresponsible. It is a world we live in and children, even very young are succumbing to the easy market of getting off the path of straight and narrow. There are water bottles filled with vodka, cigarettes and joints brought on campus, even sold there and lets not forget the quick dress change girls do to emphasize their young bodies, in school, cyber bullying, shaming on so many levels from gender to weight, cool kids, nerds and the list goes on and on. Teacher respect and good citizenship should be a daily verbal share. See something, say something. You could talk to your children and teens every day and still not cover everything that could happen on their sidewalk of life.
But talk. Talk a lot. Give your children very specific rules that YOU have laid out. Never compromise and hopefully your child will be one of the lucky ones who are never approached, pressured or attacked. Maybe their middle school years will be laden with great memories and that’s it. Not likely. Let them know that other families may not share our rules, but these are still our rules and they must abide by them. Lying to us will also inevitably make your situation much worse and the consequences heavier.
I wont tolerate my children being the “mean girl or boy” and hopefully these open discussions will help them realize that we care and love them and there really is a reason to have them. Having said this, our children also know not to induce or start a fight, but if provoked or hit, never just take it. Fight back. Walking away was great in my day. Now you are cornered, knives are drawn and other children entice the dangerous situation.
One day soon there will be a GoPro on some child’s body that will film hundreds of hours of the truth behind the walls. That day is coming. Only then will we see the real pressures and issues that surround our kids. I cant even go into how some of our teachers are letting down the students by showing up late to class every day, texting, promoting their own agenda for testing and not being prepared to even teach what they are being paid to teach. That is another blog for another day.
Let me also say that no child is perfect, mine included. We all make mistakes. With mistakes comes lessons, punishment and growth. There have been some mistakes and growth in our household over the past few years as I am sure are in many households. Its natural, but not a pattern I would want to encourage or ignore. Do they tell us everything? I’m not stupid enough to say of course, but I do know more about them and what children their age are doing. Its very scary. I choose to be proactive, not reactive.
If there is one last thing that my husband and I tell our children every week, it is this:
If you are ever in trouble, make a mistake and need any kind of help, call us. Come to us. Come to your siblings. We will never ever stop loving you. We are in this together. If you see something, say something. Always.
Be safe out there. We need each other to keep our kids safe and surrounded in a healthy environment.