There are very few guarantees in this world – but experiencing drama when you are a parent is a sure thing! And as a mum of 4, I’ve had my fair share. Whether it’s friendship issues, homework problems or just picking up the pieces after some bad choices – I feel like my job as a mother is most tested when I’m helping my boys navigate the tough stuff.
But after clocking up 25 years of parenting, I’ve learned one thing – when you’re in the thick of issues with your kids, being calm (even on the outside) is the best way of getting to the bottom of an issue, and helping them solve it.
Kids Don’t Differentiate Between Their Online and Offline Life
Even though we may compartmentalize our lives into offline and online, our kids don’t. For them, it’s the same thing! They use their online life to set up their online activities. In fact, their online life is a critical element of their day-to-day lives. So, if a problem arises online – an embarrassing photo is shared or they make a wrong move – it can feel like their whole world is affected.
‘That is – I’m Taking The Devices Away’
I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to scream this from my lungs when my boys have found themselves in tricky online situations over the years. And I am sure I am not alone. When our kids come to us with an online issue, all we want to do is throw the router in the bin or cancel their phone plan. But, that, my friends, is the worst think you can do. If your kids think there is even a small chance you’ll remove their technology, then I promise you that they will never come to you with an online issue. They would much rather try and work it out themselves than threaten disconnection because their online world is their entire world.
My Top Tips On Navigating Online Issues With Your Kids
1. Remain Calm
Without a doubt, THE most important thing you can do for your kids is to guarantee that you will NOT scream, shout or disconnect them from their devices if they come to you with a problem. Even though you know it will be tough, promising them that you will remain calm will mean they are far more likely to seek your advice when things are tough. Of course, I am not suggesting that you don’t deal out punishments or introduce new rules as a result of the issue but remaining approachable is key.
2. Be Empathetic
Being a teenager in this digital era is completely different from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. So, while some of the issues your kids may experience may mirror yours, many will not. Thankfully, we didn’t have the constant pressure that social media can be when we were growing up. Some kids can rationalize the way social media works and not lose any sleep over it whereas others will find it much trickier to navigate.
So, take a minute to really understand their social media-dominated world. Many kids, understandably, struggle when comparing themselves to someone’s perfectly curated Instagram feed; feel lonely or ‘less than’ when discovering that their friends are all out (thanks to a shared pic online) but they weren’t invited; or, consumed by the number of likes their posts achieve. As the great Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ said ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” So, try as hard as you can to understand how these pressures can affect their mindset.
3. Make A Plan
When things are tricky and overwhelming, making a plan can help direct the angst and reduce the worry. Depending on the issue your child is having online, you may want to introduce some new rules around the time and place they can use their device. For example, if devices were not yet banned from the bedroom – this could be a good place to start. You could also insist devices are placed in a ‘charging zone’ on the kitchen bench overnight so their bedroom becomes a tech-free zone.
Additionally, if you are worried your child is experiencing concerning levels of anxiety or low mood as a result of the situation, you might want to include making an appointment with the counselor at school or an independent psychologist. Also, notifying the school may also be a helpful action point for the plan too – depending again on the nature of the issue.
If I’m being honest, being calm and chilled is probably not my natural state. I could blame it on genetics or maybe the amount of caffeine I consume but when it comes to my helping my boy with the tricky stuff, I dig deep. I channel my inner yogi and muster up all the patience and chilled vibes I can because it’s so worth it. Knowing my boys understand they can come to me about any problem – online or offline – means they know someone always has their back. And isn’t that our job as parents?
Till next time