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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Letter from Publisher

Aug 01, 2015 03:37PM

I truly enjoyed the parenting wisdom offered in August’s feature article, “Enlightened Parenting: Tips for Raising Confident and Loving Kids.” It led me to ponder my own parenting skills and, curious to hear my 11-year-old son’s perspective, I asked him what’s important for parents to know. After thinking for a moment he said, “Parents should know that kids understand a lot more than you think, and we are capable of doing much more and being more independent then you let us be.” Wow.

I admit to being a somewhat overprotective mom and struggle with finding the balance between allowing my son to experience the freedom and independence necessary for him to develop his creativity and coping skills while also ensuring he is protected from harm. This summer, I’ve made a conscious effort to be a more relaxed parent, and Yonatan is relishing the freedom of going exploring outside with his friends.

Not long ago, he and two neighbor boys discovered a wooded area with a stream close to home, where they’ve been busy building a fort. I’m delighted to see his enthusiasm to meet up with his friends and further their mutual adventure. It’s fun to hear about how they resourcefully furnish the fort using only nature and repurposed items they find outside. Yonatan’s sense of accomplishment shines brightly as he proudly introduces other friends to his special place.

I’m intrigued that the more freedom I allow, the more he openly shares with me. Although grownups are banned from setting foot in this sacred boy space, Yonatan likes to show me pictures, describing the setting and relating every last detail of their activities. Because he knows that I tend to get anxious regarding his whereabouts, he checks in with me regularly without my needing to ask, purely out of his concern and respect for my feelings.

Parents today face challenges that are much different from those encountered when our parents raised us, and one of them is Internet safety. In Time magazine’s opinion-editorial “Let Kids Run Wild Online,” writer Danah Boyd, the author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, suggests that parents allow teens online freedom and focus on helping them develop strategies for managing complex social situations, negotiating, assessing risks and asking for help. She makes the case that this approach is far more helpful than tracking, monitoring and blocking their online interactions.

While we instinctively yearn to protect our kids from every potential harm, being too protective can ultimately undermine the opportunities that will enable youth to learn how to successfully navigate their way in a complex world. Boyd suggests allowing them the freedom to wander the digital street, knowing that caring adults are behind them, rooting for and supporting them wherever they go. As Yonatan prepares to breach the cusp of this digital world, I confess I’m not quite ready to cross that bridge.

For now, I’ll continue to cherish this simpler time, while my son is thoroughly enjoying his outdoor, summer freedom and hands-on adventures.

To memories built of fresh fun in the sun,

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher

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