Most parents will tell you that capturing and engaging the attention of children today is increasingly difficult because mobile connectivity is so compelling and in some cases addictive. Getting kids to put down the device is challenging, and the children are feeling like they don’t need parental guidance because their devices are empowering them after all. And what is actually happening, is they are experiencing very corrupt information and experiences that inspire shame and a sense of worthlessness – which is well documented in the ethnographic portraits of modern youth by Nancy Jo Sales, in American Girls, and in Anderson Cooper’s expose, Being Thirteen.
Dr. Jessica Rodriguez is the CEO of Gateway Corp, a non-profit in Sacramento dedicated to helping people suffering from mental illness and addiction through interventions that involve family system support. She spoke at a Core Connectivity event in Carmichael on April 9 about the role of shame in eating disorders, and offered some insights for parents about meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of modern youth. Rodriguez explains that shame is the act of believing you are identified with what is wrong in the world, rather than recognizing that experiencing and participating in things that are wrong, (that offend the dignity of humanity), and actually being wrong are not the same thing. To that end, Rodriguez offers some insights that reveal two things every parent needs to know about raising tech-savvy kids.
Soul talk is essential. According to Rodriguez, parents too need to deal with their own shame associated with children who fall into risky traps of bullying, addictions and disorders. “Society has trained us up to be at fault as parents,” she said. “Society says keep your shame to yourself, and this makes it difficult to resolve and allows shame to remain deeply rooted…The Spirit of God is present and inhabits within us. Acknowledge it,” she said. By acknowledging the spirit of power and love and sound mind in you and in your child, it is possible to impart your wisdom and really connect with your child so they can know the truth about their identity as free-agents who can stand corrected, change their ways to become better versions of themselves.
Check your opinion. Our children are under attack in their cyber social realm. Teens, male and female, are treating themselves and one another as bullies, victims and sexual objects to be used and abused. There are a lot of reasons why youth may feel ashamed for the exploitive things that they have witnessed or are engaged in. “God wants to heal us. He wants us to declare that ‘shame’ is not who we are,” Rodriguez said. If your child has been caught up in a shame-inspiring experience that involves sexual exploitation, bullying or addiction, children need parents to lead them in the path of forgiveness. “Teach them to realize that they bought into a lie, and ask God for help,” she said. “Shame needs to be uprooted. And for eating disorders this is especially critical and require proper assessment and treatment.”
In order to pursue a state of forgiveness and grace, and to engage your child in open conversation about what is happening, check your opinion. Your opinion, no matter how educated, is limited understanding of a situation or concept, and it carries with it judgment that can be interpreted by your child as condemnation and thus inspires a spirit of shame, not forgiveness. So check your opinion, and offer wisdom – the eternal truth of what you believe about where your power comes from based upon your chosen faith. If we can all agree that we live in a free society because a handful of people declared and acted on this one mustard seed of faith that every individual has God-given power to choose their own thoughts and actions, and at any time can choose a different standard and rise above the shame, it is possible to hold one another accountable with a heart full of mercy, grace and hope. That is the authenticity that children seek in their cyber-social realms and need to experience at home.