KAREN WICKER: You Can't Hide Them From The World
Although I believe I continue to evolve as a woman and a person, I still think that I maintain the core beliefs and values that I adopted when I was a teenager.
When we are young and finding our way, we tend to look at those around us and begin to define ourselves within the larger world. I was in high school during the late 1960s and early '70s, which I am sure has influenced some of my thinking. But it was also my parents and my own sense of well-being that ultimately defined me and the decisions I made throughout my life.
The drug culture during the '70s was talked about and written about in magazines and TV. I never saw illegal drugs of any sort until I was in college and most of that was limited. The "free love" movement was encouraging young people to express themselves sexually, as well as pressure from peers. I knew how to say "no" not only because my parents told me, but because I wasn't afraid to say it.
I will not say I was a perfect teenager. I had my days of rebellion and experimentation, but I had my own self-imposed limits. I feel that the way my parents brought me up and my own sense of well-being was a determining factor in how I reacted and functioned.
Parents today still face those outside influences on children. Just this past week, ABC news came out with research on how the media influence children to become sexually active at an even earlier age. This influence is creating an increase in teen pregnancy and teen parents. Even though there was media influence during my teen years, I think it is so much more intensive today.
Case in point, my daughter received a couple of trial issues of US magazine. It is similar to People magazine, but has more pictures and fewer storylines. I was flipping through one of the issues and suddenly realized about 80 percent of the pictures of the celebrities depicted them as pregnant or with their small children. I am not knocking parenthood, but most of these celebrities were young and not married. It was putting an image out there to the reader that having a baby was the "in" thing to do.
There used to be a time at night when the family-type shows would air, and the adult storyline programs would come on after 9 p.m.
Now there is adult programming on 24/7 with cable, satellite TV and the Internet. Even the commercials depict risky behaviors.
Families have more televisions sets in their homes today then ever before, and family members are watching their individual shows.
The selection of clothing for children and teens is much more suggestive than ever before. Try going into the juniors' department or looking at a teen magazine. The fashion trend is sexy. And it doesn't just affect the children or youth.
I have seen more and more relaxed dress codes in the workplace. I was in a lawyer's office the other day standing at the counter taking care of some business. I couldn't help but notice the young lady waiting on me. Her top was very low-cut, and it made me very uncomfortable talking to her. And believe me, I am not easily embarrassed.
So, as parents, what do we do? We can't lock our kids up from all the bad influences; we can't control their whole environment.
No, but we can help them have the self-confidence to be their own persons within the values and expectations we have set as parents.
Parents can use encouraging words and nurture children in the early years in order to foster good self esteem. Parents can serve as good role models and be aware of what children are exposed to in their daily lives.
But the greatest gift a parent can give children is to help them find themselves by being their cheerleader, adviser and a parent throughout their whole childhood.
Contact Karen Wicker, a family and consumer sciences agent, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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