Michele Borba: Will Amy Winehouse’s alleged assault affect your tween’s character? (Check for answer….)

by | Dec 23, 2009 | Peer Pressure, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions

Should parents worry about those tarnished kid role models (ie Amy, Jamie Lynn, Britney, Owen, Barry, Paris, Lindsay, etc, etc. etc.)?

So it appears that Amy Winehouse has been charged today over alleged assault at a children’s play. Unfortunately, Amy is just another of a growing list of celebs who seem to be members of a select group called the Hall of Shame. Jamie Lynn Spears. Britney Spears. Barry Bonds. Paris Hilton. Lindsay Lohan. Oh they win accolades and prizes all right, 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 by celebs behaving badly. 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!

The American Psychological Association also confirms what many parents feared: all those raunchy, sexy media messages and a celebrity-driven culture does have an impact on our kids–particularly  out daughters–and are also correlated to the sharp rise in childhood eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. Steroid use is rising among our sons. Almost 60 percent of teens said professional athletes they admired who admitted to steroid use influenced their decision to the the drugs themselves. But don’t despair…there are parenting solutions to counter those raunchy icons and help our kids find healthier modes to look up to and emulate.

If you haven’t heard the good news, this should make you smile. In a survey of over 1300 young people, the majority listed their parents (REALLY!) as their top heroes–and by far. And moms lead the pack. In fact, over three-quarters of adolescents admitted that being with their parents is what brought them even more joy than being with their friends. (Are you smiling?)

So now breathe again, and recognize your influence. You do make a difference — that is IF you choose to realize your impact on your kids.

For specific soltutions, refer to the chapter on Role Models (page 391) in The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.