Welcome to the September 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Safe
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
A short while ago I happened upon an article that is profoundly direct, honest and also upsetting, but necessary. That article was (*TRIGGER WARNING*) The Myth of the Teenage Temptress: Or Why A Young Girl Can Not Consent to Sex With An Adult Man, and straight away I knew what I wanted/needed to contribute to the topic of ‘staying safe’.
Thinking back and collecting my thoughts for this have not been easy as writing about other subjects, but I always knew that at some point I would need to carefully (and kindly) evaluate my own not-so-distant past in order to help my children with what (as grandmothers seem so fond of reminding us) is their not-so-distant future. Albeit that they are only nearly 1 and 4 years old.
For the most part – cuts, scrapes and even broken bones will heal much faster and leave far less lasting impact than the consequences of many teenagers and young adults’ ‘risky behavior’.
Once we’ve passed the years where our children’s safety can largely be ensured with a correctly fitting this or a locked or restricted that, when our children’s safety and well-being become less and less directly in our hands, then how do we protect our precious babies? Are we helpless against the sea of cultural dangers and terrifying waves of various hormones?
The answer of course is no, we are not helpless. We have the opportunity right from birth to lay down the best foundations their long-term safety. From being open and informative about sexual and drug issues with our youngsters, to modeling empathy and teaching children about consent and respect for their own and others’ personal boundaries (see this great article for more on this!).
Nearly all parents realize that this kind of preparation is important, but it seems to me that perhaps the most valuable and effective measure for safe-guarding our ‘young-adults-to-be’ often get’s overlooked.
First of all (without getting into great detail) let me share a little of my own background so that you may understand why this topic is so close my heart.
My mother, who had left my father at the age of four, became a foster-carer when I was just six years old. She trained for a new scheme that the social services had going at the time called TPS – Teenage Placement Scheme. What that seemingly ambiguous term really meant was that TPS carers would take only teenagers and generally the ‘tougher’ cases that the other ‘mainstream’ carers were not keen, or trained to take on.
I was an only child (though I had half siblings too distant to see regularly) and was keen to have the company.
My first ‘foster sister’ was a lovely gentle girl with Downs Syndrome who stayed for several months, followed by a 14/15 year old girl with kidney disease who exasperated her parents with her ‘normal-teen-antics’.. I adored her.
It seemed like they were easing us in however, for after those initial two placements the girls who came arrived from increasingly more unsettling backgrounds and were more and more troubled.
Over the years I lived periodically with dozens of girls who came from situations of serious neglect to extensive sexual abuse. The vast majority of them were very promiscuous and frequently put themselves in ‘high-risk’ situations.
Many of those girls, flirted heavily and even pursued older guys, and so most did enter sexual relationships with young men well over the age of consent while they were still under (16 here in the UK).
It may partly have been that this early promiscuity had become almost normalized for me that it didn’t concern me much when my peers at school were also having sexual relationships with much older boys (over the legal age) and as my hormones ran wild and I myself began to crave the attention, more and more, of of the opposite sex, I found it was much easier to hook the advances of guys several years older than the admiration’s of my peers.
Let me clarify. Myself and my friends and even some of the placements I lived with did not come from abusive backgrounds (as far as I know) and yet we all invited the sexual attentions of older guys – encouraged further by the false promise of real love and affection…which of course was devastating when we were disappointed by the truth. Also of course, as we were emotionally unready for such situations and so unable to make sound judgements, this led frequently to possibly traumatic situations all of which only compounded feelings of self-loathing and loneliness leading to yet more desperation for validation and risky behavior.
My point in sharing all this is that there is a common underlying factor between kids engaging in ‘risky behavior’, such as underage sex, who come from abusive situations and those doing it who seem to come from apparently ‘good’ homes.
That is… LONELINESS (and generally accompanying low-self esteem)
You see you can feed them, clothe them, teach them, praise them and even love them but if you don’t have time for them, are fighting against them often or your relationship is generally so strained that for some reason that they do not feel a deep enough connection with you, then they are open to trouble, seriously.
What ultimately drives girls into the careless or even predatory arms of older men? Loneliness – the need for intimacy.
What ultimately drives youngsters to join in with the risky behavior of friends, such as drug taking?
Loneliness – the need for bond and connection.
Deep unbroken connections and attachments to family is the most powerful safe-guard of all. This is why I believe so strongly in gentle/attachment parenting.
I only hope my own children, mindfully kept wrapped in the golden blanket of my love, never feel so disconnected or so lonely. May they always keep themselves safe.
Were you a lonely teen/young adult? Did need for deep connection ever lead you into un-safe situations?
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon September 10 with all the carnival links.)
- Stranger Danger — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her approach to the topic of “strangers” and why she prefers to avoid that word, instead opting to help her 4-year-old understand what sorts of contact with adults is appropriate and whom to seek help from should she ever need it.
- We are the FDA — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger makes the case that when it comes to food and drugs, parents are necessarily both their kids’ best proponent of healthy eating and defense against unsafe products.
- You Can’t Baby Proof Mother Nature — Nicole Lauren at Mama Mermaid shares how she tackles the challenges of safety when teaching her toddler about the outdoors.
- Bike Safety With Kids — Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs shares her tips for safe cycling with children in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
- Spidey Sense — Maud at Awfully Chipper used a playground visit gone awry to teach her children about trusting their instincts.
- Water — sustainablemum explains how she has used her love of canoeing to enable her children to be confident around water
- Safety without baby proofing — Hannabert at Hannahandhorn talks about teaching safety rather than babyproofing.
- Coming of Age: The Safety Net of Secure Attatchment — Gentle Mama Moon reflects on her own experiences of entering young adulthood and in particular the risks that many young women/girls take as turbulent hormones coincide with insecurities and for some, loneliness — a deep longing for connection.
- Mistakes You Might Be Makings With Car Seats — Car seats are complex, and Brittany at The Pistachio Project shares ways we might be using them improperly.
- Could your child strangle on your window blinds? — One U.S. child a month strangles to death on a window blind cord — and it’s not always the obvious cords that are the danger. Lauren at Hobo Mama sends a strong message to get rid of corded blinds, and take steps to keep your children safe.
- Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit) — Creating a safe, smoke-free home not only gives children a healthier childhood, it also helps them make healthier choices later in life, too. Dionna at Code Name: Mama (an ex-smoker herself) offers tips to parents struggling to quit smoking, and she’ll be happy to be a source of support for anyone who needs it.
- Gradually Expanding Range — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook explains how she is increasing the area in which her child can walk alone, a little bit at a time.
- Safety Sense and Self Confidence — Do you hover? Are you overprotective? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses trusting your child’s safety sense and how this helps your child develop self-confidence.
- Staying Safe With Food Allergies and Intolerances — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is sharing how she taught her son about staying safe when it came to his food allergies.
- Don’t Touch That Baby! — Crunchy Con Mom offers her 3 best tips for preventing unwanted touching of your baby.
- Playground Wrangling: Handling Two Toddlers Heading in Opposite Directions — Megan at the Boho Mama shares her experience with keeping two busy toddlers safe on the playground (AKA, the Zone of Death) while also keeping her sanity.
- Letting Go of “No” and Taking Chances — Mommy at Playing for Peace tries to accept the bumps, bruises and tears that come from letting her active and curious one-year-old explore the world and take chances.
- Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives tips on preventing choking in babies and toddlers along with Montessori-inspired tips for preventing choking in babies and toddlers who have older siblings working with small objects.
- Keeping Our Children Safe: A Community and National Priority — September has many days and weeks dedicated to issues of safety; however, none stir the emotions as does Patriot Day which honors those slain the terrorist attacks. Along with honoring the victims, safety officals want parents to be ready in the event of another disaster whether caused by terrorists or nature. Here are their top tips from Mary at Mary-andering Creatively.
- A Complete Family: Merging Pets and Offspring — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the ground rules that she laid out for herself, her big brown dog, and later her baby to ensure a happy, safe, and complete family.
- Be Brave — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about helping her kids learn to be brave so that they can stay safe, even when she’s not around.
- Catchy Phrasing — Momma Jorje just shares one quick tip for helping kids learn about safety. She assures there are examples provided.
- Know Your Kid — Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassfras refutes the idea that children are unpredictable.
- Surprising car seat myths — Choosing a car seat is a big, important decision with lots of variables. But there are some ways to simplify it and make sure you have made the safest choice for your family. Megan at Mama Seeds shares how, plus some surprising myths that changed her approach to car seats completely!
- I Never Tell My Kids To Be Careful — Kim is Raising Babes, Naturally, by staying present and avoiding the phrase “be careful!”