Now is a good time to set boundaries with your kids

Parents struggle with questions like: Should we give our pre-teen a smart phone, or not? Should we allow a Facebook account? A blog?

It’s that time of year again… when we’re setting the tone for the year ahead.

Will it be, here we go again, what a grind? Will it be anxious and fearful? Or will it be positive and optimistic?

As children and teens head back to school, I’ve heard comments like, “I can’t wait to start school,” “I’m excited about all I’m going to learn this year,” and “I’m really looking forward to band because this year I get to play percussion.”

Children and teens naturally look forward to new learning, new possibilities, re-connecting with friends and making new friends.  Our job as parents is to encourage and support them.

The main questions I’m hearing from parents are about how to do that, in a world of social media. Parents struggle with questions like: Should we give our pre-teen a smart phone, or not? Should we allow a Facebook account? A blog? A twitter account?

How much computer time? How can we keep our children safe in a world of social media, amidst the horror stories about online bullying, peer exploitation, and the like?

This is the time of year to set some boundaries and guidelines about social media, how much time is allowed, and how it fits with other values such as homework, household chores, and family time.

Many parents are uncertain about how to protect their child on social media, and of the dangers. Make an effort to learn. Social media is here to stay. It provides great opportunity for inter-connections, and also great opportunity for exploitation.

Parents need all the help we can give them to support kids.

One of the best resources I’ve found is The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which provides extensive online help for parents, schools, and for children and teens about how to keep safe, at www.protectchildren.ca.

You can access and download free information on everything from internet safety, to identifying luring behavior and registering complaints about improper websites and luring, and specific protective things parents can do.

There are sheets to help parents make decisions about their child’s personal safety and healthy development. Teens and parents alike will appreciate www.needhelpnow.ca, which has information on how to keep safe on social media, sexting, and peer exploitation online.

Listening for, and encouraging, our child’s and teen’s passions, is one thing we can do especially this time of year.

We have the opportunity to join with them in their enthusiasm for learning, while keeping them safe and, of course, teaching them the discipline that they’ll need to be successful as well.

This is a good time of year to re-focus on all our relationships, to be proactive in creating the kind of relationship, and the kind of family, we want.

What will we do together this fall to celebrate and appreciate each other? What can I do or say today, to make sure that each member of my family knows he or she is loved?

Frances Ferguson, MEd, is a registered clinical counsellor in private practice in Courtenay and Campbell River. She sees men and women, and works extensively with couples. She can be reached at 778-418-1818, or check her website at www.francesferguson.com.