Over the last year, from when he turned 8 to now nearly 9, has brought probably the biggest growth and transition since Kendall’s first year of life. Physically, sure- he’s HUGE, but emotionally and intellectually? Yeah… that’s the biggest change.
As parents, we started the year off on cruise control. We were there and watching him, but we were letting him do his thing. We were still riding that independence high. He didn’t need help getting in and out of the car, he dressed himself, and he was beginning to take responsibility for his homework all on his own. It was this brief and deceptive window of time where he didn’t need us like he did as a little kid, but we weren’t tackling big kid stuff yet.
This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org as part of their #TalkEarly ambassador program.
We weren’t having the serious conversations, we weren’t being intentional and proactive about things like what he may be hearing on the news or things he may find online.
Yeah, he’s online occasionally. He doesn’t have any social media accounts, and we don’t give him free reign of Google, but there are times he winds up in the land of YouTube or a search for something like “how to kill the boss in Zelda” takes him somewhere we’d rather he not go. We’ve had to find a balance between teaching him to use online tools, which he uses just as much for homework help and out of curiosity as he does for help beating a video game, and giving him only enough of those tools to find what he really needs.
Total honesty here- we are constantly working on this, and I feel like we suck at it most days. I am not here to give you expert advice on how to handle this. Parenting a nearly 9-year-old is hard, y’all. That moment when you realize that all the baby and little kid stuff is behind you but what is right in front of you is horrifying? Yeah, we’re there.
So the last few months have been a jolt. We’ve had to shake ourselves out of cruise control parenting and jump right in with the deep conversations, and the intentional listening. We’ve had to make thicker, purposeful boundaries. And we’ve had to take responsibility, really forcing ourselves to look at where we’re lacking.
There have been moments where I’ve felt like we’ve screwed this whole thing up, and that he would be forever damaged by it. I’m a bit of an alarmist like that sometimes. Thanks, anxiety.
But just like when he was a baby and we “messed up” – maybe we poured his bath too hot or we turned his carseat forward facing too soon- we learned from the experience, and we changed. We took responsibility for our missteps, and we all became better for it.
Now, from online use to social media, and navigating peer pressure and alcohol use- seeing where we’re lacking, owning up to it, coming up with a plan- is going to have to be what takes us through parenting.
Responsiblity.org interviewed Doctor Gilboa, author of the blog Ask Doctor G and Responsibility.org advisory member, about how to help our kids navigate digital spaces, and this question and answer were both super insightful for me.
FIRST OF ALL- Kendall is a tween?? Like, I don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to me yet, but I’m not ok with it. At all.
Anyway, the question and answer… I hope you glean a little wisdom from this, too.
Question: According to a 2015 study conducted by Common Sense Media, tweens, defined as kids ages 8-12, spend 6 hours/day consuming media. It is common for tweens and young kids to “multi-task”- or play on a device while also sitting in front of the TV. What is your advice for parents with younger kids, even those with kids as young as 6-10, who have children using tablets, cell phones, or laptops while watching TV? How do parents best monitor what their kids are doing and their social media habits?
Doc G Says: “There are three ways to manage these behaviors, and all depend on making boundaries clear to your tween. The first is to know what devices your child has and to have limits on how and when a child may use them. The second is to spend screen time with kids, modeling how you’d like them to use screens and engaging with what they are doing on those screens. The last and most important is to communicate with kids about the purpose of screens in their lives and the ways they use them towards those purposes. Our tweens will soon be teens and then adults; these thoughtful discussions will do more to inform their futures than any rule could.”