Amy Winehouse. Jamie Lynn Spears. Britney Spears. Owen Wilson. Barry Bonds. Paris Hilton. Lindsay Lohan.
All are celebs who win accolades and prizes, but also seem to keep making those scandalous headlines. The kids may idolize them, but parents associate those names with far more than “rich and famous.” Try: “Crack, teen pregnancy, mental breakdown, suicide attempts, steroids, and substance abuse. Is it any wonder that a 77 percent of Americans believe they have far too much influence on our kids?
But should we be worried over who our kids’ worship? Could they be negative influences? The answer is a resounding, “Maybe.”
The truth is not all kids are affected. Which kids are more vulnerable to those tainted-type heroes usually depends upon four big factors. Here is a quick quiz to help you weigh the “Parent Worry Factor.” No one item is a cause for concern, so take a breath. Instead look for multiple items that describe your child. The more true items, the more you should tune into a bit closer and extend your radar.
• Is your child tween-aged?
Those middle school preadolescent years are the turbulent years–especially for girls. It’s the time when girls have more fragile self-esteem, desperately want to “fit in” and are most impressionable to the media blitz. These girls are still forming a sense of self so it’s a more vulnerable age. You certainly can’t change your kid’s age but you can get a bit savvier about tweens. Come on! We read all those baby books, now it’s time to bone up on the next crucial time in our kid’s development.
• Does your child have a weak identity?
A kid with a weak sense of self “borrows” or tries out the identities from those celebrities. If a child doesn’t feel good about herself that celebrity culture of partying, money, and looks can be appealing. But only for so long. After a while the child will outgrows the idol – but the problem is she still hasn’t figured out who she is so her self-esteem is lower than ever. Downplay appearance, popularity, and fame. Emphasize: “Who you are” or “How well you did that” so your child learns to value herself.
• Does your child have outside interests?
Most kids (and adults) idolize celebrities whether it be movie stars, rock bands or soccer players. The problem goes up a notch if the child’s sole compulsion is a Jamie Lynn or a Lindsay Lohan. The child is putting all their value on that entity and when that “ideal image” of that celebrity bursts it can be devastating. Identify your child’s natural strengths, talents, skills and interests. Help your child find her own unique avenues to build confidence. Let her try out a range of new things and build confidence in areas that interest her.
• Do the two of you have a strong relationship?
As early as eight or nine our kids start pulling away and confiding in friends more than their mothers. And there goes your opportunity to plant your values and help your kid sort out the world. Find ways to stay connected and involved. You will have to be creative and a bit savvy. Remember, the best antidote for curbing negative influences is an involved parent. Be there!
All the best!