My husband and I consider ourselves the poster couple of over-protective parenting. Between the stories he hears as a juvenile probation officer and the stories I hear from the high schoolers in youth ministry, we have passwords on passwords for internet access and look up anything unfamiliar on commonsensemedia.org
Still, we are realizing that even the most vigilant parents can be caught off guard. When trading cards for a new game began circulating in school, we didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until we gave the cards a closer look and began to see a few charms and symbols that looked darker than the Pokemon that we grew concerned.
As cautious as we had been towards apps, websites and You Tube, it hadn’t occurred to us that trading cards also need to be monitored. A quick Google search revealed that we were very wrong – this particular brand was known for its graphic storylines and morbid content.
It was a little scary – and humbling – for self-appointed experts like ourselves to realize how easily disturbing content could sneak into our home, but after talking to other parents I’ve realized it happens to everyone and we weren’t failures. In fact, it was an opportunity for conversation and clarification of boundaries.
Here are the steps we took:
1. Stay calm.
While we were very worried, we were pretty sure a seven-year old acquiring a few cards wasn’t an act of defiance, it’s just going along with the crowd. Good conversations don’t begin with a lecture so even though we wanted to launch into a mini-sermon on Philippians 4:8 (Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.) we simply asked more questions to learn where exactly the card had come from (a friend) what our child knew about the game (not much) and what he planned to do with them (stuff them in a folder). While we had cause to be concerned, there had clearly not been any sort of occult indoctrination. He just thought the dragons looked cool.
2. Talk to other parents.
While families may have different rules and standards, I’ve found that parents generally want to support each other. Attending birthday parties, sporting events and science fairs aren’t just a good chance to show support for your child, it’s an opportunity to build a bridge so communication with other parents about the serious stuff is less awkward. The next time I had coffee with the collector’s mother, I was able to simply say, “my husband and I are worried that this particular game is too intense for our kiddo. Could we help them find something else to do when they play together?” We simply stated what we felt was best for us without criticizing the choices made by them.
3. Say no.
While we haven’t confiscated the cards in question (mainly because we can’t find them. Kid’s bedrooms are black holes of dirty laundry, stuffed animals and overdue library books), we haven’t encouraged it either. And when we were asked about watching the accompanying T.V. show we responded with a gentle, “no, it’s too scary.” There was disappointment and a few tears at the thought of missing out on what his classmates were doing, but my husband and I realized that this would not be the last time our standards would be disappointing to the kiddo, so we all might as well get used to it. After all, kids have plenty of friends. We needed to be the parents.
4. Suggest alternatives.
Instead of just saying “no” we offered alternatives. We took the lead in playdates and we encourage time outside instead of in front of a screen. We re-directed to games and books that had positive messages.
Unless we move to Mars, this won’t be the last time our kiddo encounters questionable materials. However, we can continue to use these moments as an opportunity to clarify our values and build bridges of communication and understanding.
Looking for other ways to continue or start some good conversations in your family about important issues? Consider bringing Family Honor’s Leading & Loving program to your parish – or host a Leading & Loving program in your home. Call the Family Honor office at 803.929.0858 or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org for details.