By Tina Case
I can clearly see that the role of parenting evolves as our children get older and more self-reliant. But one thing that will always be top of mind is protecting your children from harm. When they are very little and so dependent on you, the role of protecting can involve holding their hand to cross the street, buckling them up in their car seat and ensuring everything is tightly secured, and tucking them in bed at night an assuring them there is no boogie monster under the bed.
Now that I have three teenagers in the house (which is an endless source of anecdotes worth writing about later) I realize that my role to protect them has become even more involved, more engaged. When they were toddlers things we simpler in many ways; they were always in my line of sight or within earshot. Plus they had fewer complicated technical items that I had to warn them about. Now that they are older they are often away from home, hanging out with friends, biking to the corner Stop 'n Go to get a Slurpee or shopping with friends. I also have a daughter away at college.
As teens they don't always heed your warning, "Aw, Mom - enough already," - they are exerting their independence. But there are safety concerns you just shouldn't back down from. Here are a few of the highlights of what I have learned:
- Safe Driving. First, you cannot back down from teaching them how to be safe drivers. Besides having them attend an accredited drivers education class, you need to be sure to cover all of the rules of the road with them, repeatedly. Especially no talking on cell phones or texting while driving. Teach them how to pull over safely to a parking lot or side street when they need to take or make a call. Have them meet in person with your insurance agent who will often have a program for safe teen driving. Observe their driving habits and have your friends keep an eye out for them. In my circle of friends we are like each others eyes and ears and alert each other when one of the antics our children get into needs to be shared with the parent (delicately I might add).
- Internet Safety. I don't ban them from using social networking sites like Facebook, I teach them how to use all of the security settings and how to avoid spammers and viruses. Like swimming, I don't prevent my children from having fun in the pool, I teach them to be strong swimmers.
- Just say "No." I've been impressed with how well our public schools have taught them about D.A.R.E, Drug Abuse Resistance Education. I have not had to insert my own opinion in this area too much because they are smarter than my generation and very confident children. I'm proud to see how much they have learned and respect their own bodies not to harm them in this way. But you should still have this conversation to monitor their continued awareness especially as they head off to college.
- Campus Safety. My college-age daughter recently encountered a scary situation with her roommate. They were walking back to their dorm after dinner when a group of three adult men approached them from the other direction. Fortunately nothing happened, but it frightened my daughter. I'm glad she told me about it to discuss campus safety. She enrolled in a kick boxing class and will enroll in a self-defense class next semester. The key is to call for a campus escort, always travel with at least one or more friends, and avoid being out late at night in unfamiliar and potentially dangerous places. This is an ongoing conversation for us and I include my two younger children so they can understand this as well.
- Financial Savvy. As your children get older, they need to learn how to be safe with their money. I've taught my children not to discuss how much money they have in their wallet, not to flash it around, and to put their change away after a purchase. For my college-age daughter, she is handling credit cards and checks for school purchases. We've taught her to make a copy of her credit card and keep it in a safe place in case it gets lost or stolen. That way she can call the bank and cancel it right away. We avoid using debit cards because there's not much you can do if those are lost or stolen.
- Laptop & Cellular Safety. Different than Internet Safety, this is about keeping your valuable technology secure by using laptop locks when you're away from your desk (especially on campus), password protecting sensitive data files, having passwords to open your phone or laptop and keeping personal information to a minimum. Cellular phones these days can have so much information that we make sure they do not have any personal information such as street addresses, credit card information, social security numbers, photos.
I suppose you never stop worrying about your children even after they become parents. It must be human nature to keep your progeny safe to secure the future of their children.
More from this writer:
A Letter to my Daughter
Unleashing the Truth About Santa Claus
Are Western Mothers Inferior?
Tina Case is proud to be part of the Yahoo! Shine Parenting Guru team. Tina also has a thriving photography business with her business partner. They also manage two blogs, Parent Grapevine and Moms Who Click.