I’m convinced our parents had an easier time raising kids in their day. So much has changed in thirty years. Some things are better, sure. We don’t have to manually roll up our car windows or stand in the kitchen to use a phone attached to the wall. Now we have the amazing ability to video chat with family across the world! Using our cell phone, we can snap a quick photo of our baby and text it to Grandma in seconds! We live in a new era, and along with that come all new parenting challenges. Today we have to navigate the complicated issue of the internet.
San Antonio mom Mandy Majors has written a book to help with the new challenges parents face these days. Talk: A Practical Approach to Cyberparenting and Open Communication addresses issues our own parents never had to deal with. She is a Christian and, as such, writes her book with the Bible as a foundation. I, too, am a Christian, so I appreciate the Biblical references she offers, as well as the valuable statistics about current technology use among kids these days.
The book is divided into three sections. In the first part, she explains how she got the wake-up call to change her parenting style. Her daughter asked her a sex question out of the blue, and not only was she not prepared to answer it, she had to come to terms with the fact that her daughter was being exposed to things at school she did not know about. After a lot of reflection, she decided to turn her day-to-day complacency into honest, open communication with her daughter. That was the weapon she would use in this evolving world of cyberparenting. This idea of open communication is what she focuses on throughout her book.
Part two lays out the plan for open communication. First and foremost, she writes about the importance of looking into our own lives as we parent. We must address our own baggage and bring it to the Lord. Before we can instill wisdom in our kids, we need to have our hearts in the right place. If you are not a Christian, this is the same principle described when you fly on an airplane with your child. If needed, you as a parent must put on the oxygen mask first and then put it on your child. Majors encourages parents to look in the mirror and face our fear, shame, or guilt first. Then we will be better equipped to help and teach our children.
The rest of the section has practical advice on communicating with your spouse and strengthening your marriage. Majors also describes how to become your child’s safe place by being honest with your child. Finally, she writes about the importance of having what she calls a “tribe,” or friends, to turn to.
The last part is the one I found to be most valuable. Part three addresses specific topics relevant to our children today. While some may disagree on her take on things, what I find helpful is the idea of reflecting and discussing the topic with your spouse. Once you lay issues out on the table, you can decide what is best for your family. Majors says, “Your family. Your choice.”
Think of it like this. When I had newborn babies, I read books like Babywise and Happiest Baby on the Block. I agreed with some things, so I implemented them. If I didn’t agree or it didn’t work for my family, I just moved on. I think this approach would be helpful with the topics Majors addresses in her book.
Some of the topics she writes about make me blush. I wish I didn’t have to talk to my kids about them, but the alternative seems much worse. What if they get the wrong information from friends at school? (Remember when kids in school said you couldn’t get pregnant the first time you had sex? Or what about not getting addicted to drugs the first time?) I want my kids to know that they can come to me with any question and I will always tell them the truth.
The following topics are addressed in their own chapters in her book: cell phones and contracts, social media (think Facebook & Instagram), pornography, suicide, addictions, mass shootings and terrorism, attitude and body changes, dress codes and dating, sex talks and masturbation, sexuality and sexual orientation/identity, sleepovers, and rejection.
In my opinion, Majors has written a great, thought-provoking book. Whether you agree with her stance or not, she brings up issues that are important. Your family can discuss and figure out your own plan of action. Again, “Your family, your choice.” I appreciate that she brings up some things that I would have never considered. For example, I have two boys and had NEVER thought about talking to them about wet dreams. Lord Jesus, help me! Now my husband and I can talk about it and decide how we will deal with this. I’m glad Majors shared how their family deals with it. I’m probably going to steal their idea!
Talk is not a rule book with strict guidelines on how you should parent. It is a resource to help you think through how you and your spouse will deal with different issues in your own family. The recurring theme in this book is to “default to love.” When people have different opinions, it is important to teach our kids to treat others as they would like to be treated, not judge or bully anyone.
Our biggest obstacle when parenting our kids is fear. Sadly, our kids are being exposed to adult topics at a much younger age than we were, and many of us are too afraid or embarrassed to talk to them about it. However, we cannot let fear keep us from being open and honest with our kids. Too much is at stake. We have to teach them to navigate the cyberworld.
I suggest reading this book for yourself. It will open your eyes and help you determine a plan of action for your own family. Thanks, Mandy, for going to a place that is new territory. Thank you for your encouragement to talk to our kids about scary, messy, and complicated topics. I, for one, now see it as an opportunity to build trust and encourage love with my kids. Let the open communication begin!