REALITY CHECK: Thong undies for preschoolers, periods at 7, push-up bras at 8, Botox at 16...it will all add up to missed childhoods if we don’t start parenting!
It's almost as though our kids are living in an X-rated world... bomboarded by sexually-explicit movies, sexually charged pop music, mature-rated video games and provacative "way before their years" type fashion.
Data shows that for the past few years, teen girls have been begging parents for Botox injections (around $300 to $500 per pop). A hot new teen craze is now Sweet Sixteen birthday party requests for Botox injections. And the newest high school girls’ graduation present request: “Breast implants!”
Childhood is a terrible thing to lose. There is no rewind button and there are serious consequences to allowing our kids to be on the fast track.
Dangers of decompressed childhood
1.6 million dollars in sales for thong undies for girls 7 to 12 last year
Adopting that fast-forward world affects our children’s emotional, social, and moral development. They miss out on appropriate activities, rituals, and games that are such an essential part of just growing up.
Instead they are exposed to serious or sexualized issues that they can’t fully comprehend, let alone handle. They are flooded with images and content that could change their attitudes, values and behaviors. They begin to believe that they should be acting and dressing like teens when they are still tweens or in grade school. That’s why child experts, the medical profession and parents alike are concerned that that relentless exposure to adult-type subject matter is so harmful and so wrong.
A study by the American Psychological Association also confirms what many parents and child experts fear: All those raunchy, sexy, pencil-thin type “What you should look like” messages do indeed have an negative impact.
A five-year study of 2516 teens by the American Psychological Association found that girls who frequently read those dieting and weight loss articles are far more likely to fast, vomit, or use laxatives to lose weight. In fact, the data proved that the more frequently a girl reads those fashion magazines, the more likely she is to resort to extreme weight control behaviors. Those images are also correlated to the rise of young girls eating disorders, lower self-esteem, and depression.
8 ways to help kids retain their childhood
Don’t throw up the white flag! There are solutions! Here are ways to help children develop at a pace geared more appropriately to their chronological age, so your son or daughter won’t grow up too fast and can experience those glorious days of childhood that they need and deserve.
Get to be a know-it-all
View a few TV programs that your child’s peers watch.
- Catch the latest Reality TV show, flip on MTV and notice those grinding dance numbers and provocative outfits
- Listen to the latest pop lyrics and the words and content
- Flip through CosmoGirl, Teen Vogue, OK, US, or Teen People
- Peruse the mall a little closer to check out the latest tween fashions
Doing so will help you decide what limits you want to set for your child. It's unrealistic to say no to everything, so where will you draw the line? Be clear with your child.
Take a crash course in child development
Join up with like-minded parents who want to let their children have childhoods and start talking!
Let your kid be a kid: Bring back P.L.A.Y!
According to a University of Michigan study on how children (ages 3-12) use their time, kids now have 12 hours less per week of unstructured time than they did two decades ago.
Take a serious look at your child's schedule. Is there anytime left for those cherished childhood traditions like play, make-believe, forts, unscheduled time and sand castles?
Don’t buy into that modern day American parenting myth that “push-push-push” is “better-better-better” for your child. There is no proven scientific advantage to that.
Play is not a luxury, but essential to children's social, emotional, moral, physical and cognitive growth.
Insist on developmentally appropriate material
Set your rules and expectations based on your child’s actual chronological age. Tailor your decisions on what is developmentally appropriate to your child’s current emotional, cognitive and physical stage. (Check child development guides)
Lay down certain “Rites of Passage” or ages your child can go to her first sleepover, use the computer alone, obtain a cell phone, see a PG movie, shave her legs, wear makeup, pierce her ears so she has something to look forward to.
Utilize the suggested age guidelines for games, toys, sports equipment and books.
Use the age rating system for video games, movies, CDs, television shows. Recognize that panels of credentialed child development experts spend hours reviewing each product before providing posted guidelines. When in doubt, listen to those CD lyrics. Play the video game first. Watch the movie. Take control on what your child is watching and listening to!
Lead your child toward age-appropriate and healthy hobbies and interests.
Do a quick “healthy media test”: Walk around your home and pick up the magazine your daughter is most likely to read. Flip it to a few pages. Would those images nurture or hinder her self-esteem? If “hinder” is your answer, then it’s time to alter that subscription.
HOLD THE LINE ON THAT "SEXY" LOOK
These days fashions aimed at kids are outright provocative and clearly push the age-appropriate limits. Makeup. Short skirts. Halter tops. Press-on nails. Lip gloss. Thong-underwear. See-through blouses.
The “come-hither look” clearly is selling “sexualization” and luring our kids into a far too early and unhealthy focus on appearance with an R-rated twist.
Pick your battles when it comes to fashion, go ahead and allow choices, and don’t worry so much about “style”, but hold a clear line when it comes to fashion with a look equated as sexy. Regardless of the onset of puberty (which is hitting our daughters earlier), your nine-year-old child is still nine.
While you’re at it, know that toy makers are designing new long-legged, doey-eyed looking female dolls in slinky outfits ready for the hot-tub for our preschoolers.
Set your standards to your children’s chronological–not physical–age.
Start those "grown up talks" earlier
Let’s face it—kids are exposed to more grown up issues at far younger ages. Studies show that drinking, sexual promiscuity, engaging in oral sex, depression, eating disorders, stress, peer pressure, puberty, and even acne are all hitting our kids three to four years earlier than when we were growing up. So don’t deny your child’s fast-forward culture and wait to discuss those “grown up” subjects you planned for the teen years. If you’re not talking about these tougher issues believe me your child’s friends most likely are.
Be the one who provides accurate facts - laced with your moral beliefs and values.
Also make sure your child’s doctor is someone your daughter or son feels comfortable speaking to.
The closer your relationship with your child, the better able she will be to navigate that sometimes raunchy, racy culture, find alternatives to those sexual messages, and realize it’s okay to be a kid. Your child will seek your guidance and use you as a filter. And you do make a difference.
A 2007 MTV/Associated press poll found that the majority of young people listed their parents as their heroes.
Find more time for your child to connect with you, her grandparents and relatives who can help keep her centered, preserve some ounce of her childhood and value her for who she really is and not how popular or sexy she looks.
Help your son find healthy male role models who can spend time with him and help him learn to enjoy being himself, as well as engaging in healthy outlets.
And above all, stay connected!
A 13-year-old typically spends half the amount of time with her parents than at age 10.
Sure, the world these days is more X-rated, but parents have always been an excellent counterbalance to sleaze and raunchiness. Remember you really do influence your child’s attitudes, values, and self-esteem, but only if you choose to use your influence!
Through the decades one parenting truth has never changed: “Children grow up all too quickly.”
But childhood these days is pushed out of the way too fast, too early, with too much that kids are developmentally unprepared to handle.
Don’t forget one more parenting truth: “A lost childhood can never be regained.”
What’s the rush? The time to stop your child’s fast-forward, accelerated childhood is now.
Push the pause button.
RESOURCES: University of Michigan study drop of 12 hours a week of free time: Judith Newman “How to Let Kids Be Kids,” Redbook, Aug. 2008, pp. 188-195.
No proven scientific advantage to accelerating kids’ childhoods: Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., former head of child psychiatry training program at Stanford University and author of The Overscheduled Child: cited by Judith Newman “How to Let Kids Be Kids,” Redbook, Aug. 2008, p. 190.
Reed Larson’s Ph.D. studies families and adolescents at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, results written in Divergent Realities: The Emotional Lives of Mothers, Fathers and Adolescents. He surveyed 483 adolescents with the beeper method and 55 families who recorded their feelings and activities for one week whenever prompted at random intervals by a beeper.: V.Rutter, “Whose Hell Is It? Psychology Today, Jan/Feb. 1995.