In this era of instant gratification our kids and teens are growing up in, maybe you’ve wondered… how will they learn to have happy, healthy relationships?
Technology is impacting their relationships like never before. On top of the normal teen dramas, they’re faced with the pressures of social media and selfie-culture, body image issues, pornography and objectification.
Collett Smart (pictured, below) is an adolescent psychologist who believes that despite these challenges, you can help your kids through troubled times.
Her new book, They’ll Be Okay is a guidebook to help parents have those tricky conversations with their teens.
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“For me, this book is about hope,” said Collett. I feel like parents beat themselves up all the time. We always feel like something we’re doing is messing our children up, or we’re failing them and I really wanted the book to be hopeful, and for parents to feel like there are things that I can do and things I am doing that mean my kids are going be okay.”
Although the book is based around 15 conversations to have with your kids, Collett stresses that it’s not about having a one-off conversation, ‘the talk’ or even one or two talks at different periods of your child’s life.
“It’s really about building relationships with your children where there’s lots of ongoing conversation. So my 15 conversations aren’t some kind of magic bullet… They are topics that you can explore with your children and sit and just chat and invest in your relationship with your child.”
Worthy of Love, and Capable of Love
Collett’s book is broken into two sections – one focuses on teaching children they are ‘Love-Worthy’ and the other that they are ‘Love-Able’.
Teaching children they are ‘love-worthy’ focuses on dignity, worth, body safety and expressing emotions. Being ‘love-able’ is about helping children to look outward and understand they have a capacity to invest in others. “The world doesn’t revolve around me and my happiness all the time,” Collett explains.
One of the issues the book addresses is the impact of porn culture on children.
“They don’t tell us anything that they’ve seen, because they think they are going to be banned from their devices.”
“We’re not going to talk about porn directly to little children and toddlers in any way, but I talk about the whole idea of body safety and naming body parts correctly. But even with our little children we can talk about things that they will see online that make them feel uncomfortable or sick in their tummies, or even things they’re curious about that make them confused.”
Collett strongly advises parents to assure their children that they won’t take their technology away if they do stumble upon something they shouldn’t see.
“We say to them if you see anything that you don’t understand, or you’re not sure what I’m going to think about it, I will never be angry with you. You come and tell me and talk to me, I won’t take your technology away. Because that is what kids fear. So they don’t tell us anything that they’ve seen, because they think they are going to be banned from their devices.”
Talking About Real Love is a Key
While Collett’s book covers conversations around many hot button issues such as pornography, body image, and what she labels ‘the hook-up myth’, she believes talking to our kids about love is the best way into the heart of many of these issues.
“We’re talking about how it affects love, how it affects relationships… A lot of our conversations with our teenagers we actually frame in the context of love because they’re interested in that. They’re interested in those kinds of topics and that is what topics like pornography and sex can come out of.”
“Conversations are about listening. So my book isn’t called ‘15 lectures to have with your child’.”
Collett says children also learn what to be silent about from the things we never discuss. “We need to start getting brave about addressing some of the big topics so our children know that nothing is taboo in our home.”
However, before we talk to our kids about the big issues we need to be investing time into our relationship with them. “The little things are big things to them,” Collett explains.
So don’t tune out if your child wants to talk about their latest Fortnite battle or favourite TV show for hours. “We need to tune in at those times, because they learn that we’re actually interested in them and then we earn the right to talk about some of the bigger stuff.”
In the end, the most important way we can connect with our kids is by listening.
“Conversations are about listening. So my book isn’t called ‘15 lectures to have with your child.’” Collett jokes.
Collett Smart’s new book is called They’ll be Okay – 15 Conversations to Help Your Child Through Troubled Times.