Tag Archives: parenting

Introducing Interactive Books From Disney and Google Home

By Tracey Dowdy

Remember Little Golden Books? I had them when I was a child, and I loved reading them to my daughters when they were little. I have such fond memories of reading together every night at bedtime, even long after they were old enough and reading on their own. I did voices and sound effects, and it was so much fun.

My husband, on the other hand, though he graduated summa cum laude, is dreadful at reading aloud. He hates it, and our girls dreaded if dad was putting them to bed and would be the one reading. The one upside is that they fell asleep quickly, either from sheer boredom or to escape from the situation.

But, with a stroke of genius, the Disney arm of Little Golden Books has announced a collaboration with Google Home that allows readers to listen to music and sound effects as the books are read aloud.

Disney’s partnership with Little Golden Books dates back to the 1940s, in fact, Disney Studio artists illustrated some of the most popular Little Golden Books to bring in income during World War II.

There are several titles to choose from including classics like Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan as well as newer stories like Moana, Coco, and Toy Story 3. They’ve promised to continue adding titles throughout the year. To activate the feature, you’ll need two things: a compatible Disney’s Little Golden Book and a Google Home device. To enable, say, “OK Google, let’s read along with Disney,” and your device will respond with “Okay, what book are we going to read?”

Once you begin reading, the music and sound effects will follow the text and bonus! If you skip ahead – you know you’ve done it, we all have – your Google Home will skip ahead with you and pick up where you’re reading. Plus, if your little one wants to talk about why the puppy is so Poky or talk about his desire to be a Lost Boy and live in Neverland, your Google Home will play ambient music in the background until you’re ready to pick up where you left off reading.

Reading aloud to children has been proven to increase language skills, develops positive attitudes toward reading and learning, builds a foundation for academic success, and increases the bond between you and your child. This collaboration enhances your experience and makes it even more fun.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Supporting Your Child’s Transition to College

By Tracey Dowdy

The transition from high school senior to college freshman is more complicated than string theory and can be more emotionally overwrought than a Nicholas Sparks novel. The joyful anticipation of being free to make one’s own decisions can quickly devolve into the overwhelming and stressful realization that freedom means responsibility and an expectation of independence. It can also leave students feeling lonely and isolated.

Emery Bergmann, a Cornell University freshman, has garnered national attention for a video she created on just how lonely and strange that transition from high school to college can be. “So I’m a brand spanking new freshman in college and like I guess I just assumed that once I was at school that like it was going to be like, I’ve got a million friends, I was going to party all the time, and it was going to be lit, but it’s just not really like that,” she says. “I really haven’t found anyone I’m close with, and I spend a lot of time in my dorm room, and all the people I talk to are like, ‘I swear to God you’re going to find your people,’ but like, where are they?”

Ironically, Bergman isn’t alone in her feelings. According to a 2017 survey of nearly 48,000 college students by the American College Health Association, 64% of college students said they had felt “very lonely” in the previous 12 months, while only 19% reported they never felt lonely.

Bergman notes in her video that social media made her feelings of loneliness even worse. Even though she “knows it is fake,” those posts can often make it seem as if everyone else is living their best lives while you spend Friday night alone in your dorm room making ramen.

It’s no secret that social media has simultaneously brought us together while pushing us farther apart. Social psychologist Sherry Turkle describes it as being “alone, together.” Though students may be connected to hundreds or even of thousands of followers and friends online, in reality, they experience far fewer in-depth, meaningful, reliable, and long term emotional relationships.

The good news is more and more students are open about their feelings of loneliness and isolation, and there’s less stigma surrounding more serious mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

As a parent, it’s essential to stay engaged while keeping a healthy distance. In other words, check-in, but leave your helicopter on the pad. Every time you intervene and try to solve a challenge facing your student, you undermine their confidence and imply they’re incapable of taking care of themselves. That has long term consequences – a study by two Cal State University-Fresno professors found that over-parenting college students resulted in “lower maladaptive job search and work behavior.” Instead, encourage them to be resourceful and use the services offered by their school. Most offer tutoring, academic, health, and social services, usually at little or no cost.

As you navigate this new relationship and learn what your role is as the parent of an adult, keep the Goldilocks Rule in mind when you’re tempted to check-in. Are you checking in too much? Not enough? Are you too intrusive? Too distant? Ask your child for their input and respect their boundaries.

Keep in mind that just like Goldilock’s porridge, the frequency of contact from your student will run hot and cold, but you’ll eventually find what’s “just right” for both of you. Rest assured you’ll likely still be a constant source of support for your child. They’re exploring new experiences and relationships. If you’ve had a healthy relationship all along, there’s no reason for that to change. A survey by the Jed Foundation found that parents are the primary source of support for 63% of college students experiencing emotional distress. As long as you keep the lines of communication as open as you would if they were still living at home, that relationship will continue to grow and mature in healthy ways, just like your child.

If you’re concerned your student is struggling with anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts, talk to a suicide hotline or substance abuse center for professional advice. Phone calls are free, anonymous, and may save your child’s life.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Helping Your Kids Back into their School Routine

Depending on your school district, your children are either back to school already or about to hit the ground running. Or staggering. Or moaning and dragging. Let’s face it, if your kiddos have enjoyed a lazy summer with late nights and even later mornings, getting back into a school-days routine can be slightly less tortuous than waterboarding.

If your child is feeling anxious about going back to school with a new teacher and classmates, don’t dismiss their feelings – validate them. Reassure them that facing new people and new situations can be stressful for adults too and reassure them you will do everything you can to support them and make their school year a success.

One of the biggest changes as you transition from summer to school is to your morning routine. Start by talking your kids through what the morning will look like and what your expectations for them will be. Get organized, especially if your child isn’t a morning person. Help them plan out what they’ll wear, pack their backpack, and prepare their lunch or snack the night before. The key is simplicity and clarity – make sure they know exactly what you expect from them. “Regular routines provide a kid’s developing brain with a template for how to organize and manage daily life. By gradually turning over the responsibility for self-management, we support the brain’s development and ensure that our kids learn how to manage themselves, ” says Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. 

If your children are young or struggle with staying on task, create a chart on your smartphone or tablet or with poster board and stickers to help them keep track.

List what they need to do, for example:

  • Wash your face
  • Brush your teeth
  • Brush your hair
  • Make your bed
  • Eat breakfast

Bedtime can be another tough transition. Just as with your morning routine, establishing a bedtime routine trains the brain that it’s time to slow down and go to sleep. If they’re used to staying up late watching a video or playing on their device, setting time limits and a countdown – 30 minutes til bed, 15 minutes til bed, and “here’s your five-minute warning” – can de-escalate tantrums and make the transition to bedtime less stressful or argumentative. Create a bedtime checklist as you did for the morning:

  • Pack your backpack
  • Put on your PJs
  • Brush your teeth
  • Go potty
  • Wash your hands
  • Get your last drink of water

Homework, the bane of parents and children everywhere, is another potential stressor for both parents and kids. Once again, the key is being organized. Check their backpack, Blackboard, or school website to keep track of upcoming projects. Use apps like Cozi to keep the family organized and myHomeworkMyStudyLife,  or Chalkboard to help manage assignments.

Remember, learning time management is an essential part of your child developing maturity. Creating a routine and setting boundaries helps them internalize structure and learn self-control. “Children who are taught basic routines grow into adults who are efficient and organized,” says Hartwell-Walker. “There’s a lot more to routines than simply getting everyone out the door in the morning and into bed on time at night. Establishing routines provides kids with important skills for life.”

 

 

 

 

Parents, It’s Time to Talk About Our Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

As a Gen Xer, my daughters’ childhoods are captured in framed photos, memories, and photo boxes in the closet off my home office. I didn’t start using Facebook until they were both tweens, and perhaps that’s why I understood the importance of not posting photos or posts about them without permission. Tweens are at an age when even having parents is mortifying, and though I sometimes overstepped, I have their consent for what’s in those old Facebook albums and posts.

Fast forward to today, where the oldest members of the millennial cohort are – gasp – turning 40. Lifestyle blogging was in its heyday during the late nineties and early 2000s, and for a while, it seemed like everyone had a blog, especially moms. It wasn’t uncommon to hear graphic stories of diaper blowouts, potty training mishaps, mispronounced words, and other content that exposed the most intimate details of their child’s milestones and behavior.

The issue is that many of those children are now old enough to Google themselves, and those blogs and Facebook posts are impacting them in ways parents didn’t, and arguably couldn’t have anticipated. The children who were the subjects of those posts are in some cases mortified by the content, while the majority simply resents having had no say over their online presence. There’s even a portmanteau for the phenomenon – sharenting.

Perhaps there’s no better example of the conflict between the two perspectives than that of Christie Tate and her daughter. Back in January, Tate, who has been blogging about her family for over a decade, wrote an essay for the Washington Post titled, “My daughter asked me to stop writing about motherhood. Here’s why I can’t.” Though she’s been writing about her children since they were in diapers, it’s only recently that her nine-year-old daughter became aware of what her mom has been writing, and asked her to stop. Tate refused, stating,

They’ve agreed to a compromise where Tate will use a pseudonym rather than her daughter’s real name, and Tate has “agreed to describe to her what I’m writing about, in advance of publication, and to keep the facts that involve her to a minimum.” Her daughter also has the right to veto any pictures of herself she doesn’t want to be posted.

Tate faced considerable backlash, with many calling her selfish and coldhearted. Many on social media sites like Reddit have roasted her, though she did receive some support.

Fourteen-year-old Sonia Bokhari wrote an honest, insightful piece for Fast Company about what it was like to finally be allowed her own social media accounts – long past the age many of her friends had become active – only to discover that her mother and older sister had been documentary her life for years. “I had just turned 13, and I thought I was just beginning my public online life, when in fact there were hundreds of pictures and stories of me that, would live on the internet forever, whether I wanted it to be or not, and I didn’t have control over it. I was furious; I felt betrayed and lied to.”

Bokhari’s mother and sister meant no harm; they posted photos and things she had said that they thought were cute and funny. She explained her feelings to her mother and sister, and they’ve agreed that going forward, they’ll not post anything about her without her consent.

It wasn’t just the embarrassment of having the letter she wrote to the tooth fairy when she was five or awkward family photos. Her digital footprint that concerned Bokhari as well. “Every October my school gave a series of presentations about our digital footprints and online safety. The presenters from an organization called OK2SAY, which educates and helps teenagers about being safe online, emphasized that we shouldn’t ever post anything negative about anyone or post unapproved inappropriate pictures, because it could very deeply affect our school lives and our future job opportunities.” Bokhari concluded that “While I hadn’t posted anything negative on my accounts, these conversations, along with what I had discovered posted about me online, motivated me to think more seriously about how my behavior online now could affect my future.”

Her response to what she learned? Bokhari eventually chose to get off social media altogether.

“I think in general my generation has to be more mature and more responsible than our parents, or even teens and young adults in high school and college… being anonymous is no longer an option. For many of us, the decisions about our online presence are made before we can even speak. I’m glad that I discovered early on what posting online really means. And even though I was mortified at what I found that my mom and sister had posted about me online, it opened up a conversation with them, one that I think all parents need to have with their kids. And probably most importantly, it made me more aware of how I want to use social media now and in the future.”

For many of us, trying to clean up our digital footprint or that of our children feels a lot like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube or trying to make toast be bread again. Still, it’s important to try. You’re not only curating your own reputation; you’re shaping your child’s before they’ve ever had a chance to weigh in.

Consider your audience and your motivation, then evaluate whether or not what your sharing is worth the potential ramifications. The internet is the wild wild west – maybe you need to start acting as the sheriff of your own town.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Balancing Screen Time During the Summer

Parenting comes with many challenges – potty training, convincing your child broccoli isn’t poison, and mastering the fine art of the diorama. But by far, one of the most significant challenges parents face is balancing screen time, particularly over the summer break.

We shouldn’t be too critical of our children, after all, how many of us take any chance we get to binge a season of our favorite shows on Netflix or constantly check our social media and email, and had Snapchat and YouTube been around when we were kids, we’d behave much the same way.

Too much of a good thing makes it no longer a good thing, so how do we balance screen time with time in the real world?

Be A Role Model

It’s cliché, but actions do speak louder than words, so if you want your child to spend less time staring at a screen set the example by putting down your phone and setting boundaries like a Device-Free Dinner.

Plan Family Activities

Summer means ample opportunities to get outside and play. Let your imagination run wild – go hiking, swimming, build a tree house or camp in the backyard. If heat and bugs aren’t your thing, try putt-putt, movies, or plan a family game night.

Set Device Free Zones

Just like the idea of a Device-Free Dinner, set rooms or times when screens are off limits. For example, no screens at the table, in the bathroom, or the car unless it’s a road trip.

Set a Timer

Let’s face it, going cold turkey is never going to last and your crew will likely mutiny, so a much better plan is to set time limits. You’ll know what works for your family, but set boundaries like no screens before breakfast or after eight pm, or cap their total amount for the day or the week. There are plenty of great apps for Android and iPhone to take the guesswork and prevarication out of the equation.

 Set Boundaries

At the very least, make a rule of one screen at a time. If it’s movie night, no phones or tablets. That may be a harder one for parents than for kids if you’re sitting through Secret Life of Pets for the fourth time, but it’s important to lead by example.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Help Your Teen Finish the School Year Strong

A friend of mine is a high school guidance counselor and though there’s never really a season her department isn’t busy, the race to the end of the school year seems to amplify everything from emotions to deadlines.

Whether it’s the high-achievers who’ve given their throughout the year and are running out of emotional energy and physical stamina or those who’ve been coasting and now realize that what they thought was the light at the end of the tunnel is the train coming straight at them, tensions can start to run high. For students with IEP’s, learning differences, attentional or behavioral issues, or social-emotional vulnerability, the end of the year can be a seemingly endless series of stressors.

As parents, there are few things more heartbreaking than watching your child struggle and knowing there are limits to how much you can help. Learning to manage schedules and stress is part of the maturing process, so it’s essential to walk beside your child, supporting them, rather than in front, snow-plow style, clearing the path for them.

If your child seems to be struggling, these strategies from family therapist, Roy Dowdy can help.

Start with a conversation. Talk to your child, his teachers, and his counselor to help identify specific triggers to stress and anxiety. “Once you’ve identified the stressor, you can implement solutions,” Dowdy says. “If it’s time management, help them create a schedule for their time outside of class. There are countless apps to help manage screen time – one of the biggest distractions – help with organization, and homework help. By incorporating your student in the process, you’re equipping them, not solving problems for them, which in turn boosts their confidence and gives them the tools necessary to face the next challenge.”

Make home a Judgement Free Zone. When you talk to your student, be careful not to pass judgment on them, even if the reasons for their distress seems insignificant to you. Anxiety distorts emotions, and that’s just as true for teens as adults. Suggesting their feelings are invalid will only exacerbate the problem and make them less likely to ask for help.

One bite at a time. There’s an old joke, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”  That’s how you’re going to attack this problem. Identify the stressor and come up with a short term solution. You’ve summer break and the next school year to implement long-term changes, but for now, work the problem in front of you,” Dowdy says. “Sure your son’s constant procrastination is what got him into this mess, and your daughter’s unwillingness to see that hours playing video games is why her room is a mess, and she can’t find her school uniform. But while a lecture on “If you had listened when I told you…” sure would feel good for you, it isn’t going to help your child at this moment. Put out the fire, then talk about implementing “fire drills” going forward.

Take the conversation to the school. Your child’s teachers and advisors are invested in their success too, so it’s essential to involve them in the discussion. By sharing your strategies with school staff, you’ve doubled your child’s cheerleaders and cut your burden in half.

Remember, you may not have the whole picture. Kids don’t often disclose everything that happens in any given situation. Remember, your teen is a former toddler, so the same child who was caught stealing his brother’s dessert and denying it is the one who’s telling you his teacher is out to get him and unfair. If school staff tell you something about your child’s actions, moods, or learning style – even, or especially if it surprises or upsets you — try to listen and hear them out. You tried to pull things over on your parents, and your child is capable of the same behavior.

Finally, if these strategies aren’t enough and your child still feels as though they’re drowning, it may be time to talk to a therapist. Dowdy’s practice is focused on families, and he has students in his office every week who are struggling to manage the demands of school, family, and their friends. “Think how overwhelmed you get trying to juggle that work/life balance. Now look at it from your teen’s perspective – someone who’s schedule and expectations are usually set by you, the parent, or by the school. That feeling of powerlessness can be incredibly stressful.”

To find a counselor, Dowdy suggests talking to the school guidance counselor, psychologist, or Dean of Students, your pediatrician, or other parents you know and trust for a referral to a counselor that specializes in adolescent mental health.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Dad Creates App That Freezes Kid’s Phones

Ever wonder if your kids are getting your messages and texts and just ignoring them because they’re in the middle of something more fun? Or perhaps it’s the onslaught of messages, texts, and notifications that come with being a teen active on social media.

That’s the question Nick Herbert found himself asking back in 2016. Though his son Ben had been given a smartphone partly on the condition that he’d need to respond to parent’s messages at all times, Ben wasn’t living up to his end of the bargain. “He may prioritize his friends’ messages over mine sometimes,” said Nick. So, like any resourceful and somewhat frustrated parent, he set out to solve the problem.

The result is ReplyASAP, an app that temporarily locks the phone remotely. Through the app, users can send a message that will be displayed over top of anything the recipient may be doing on their phone and sounds an alarm on the phone – even if it’s set to silent. Though users can hit the snooze button, the alert will keep coming back. Both the sender and the receiver must have downloaded the app for it to work.

At this point, the recipient can choose to reply, cancel the message, or snooze it, re-enabling the phone and sending a message that also notifies the sender of the recipient’s location. Once the message is viewed, the app alerts the sender that the message has been seen.

Herbert included Ben in the app’s development process. It was important to both that the app be useful, not intrusive.  On the ReplyASAP website, Nick says “Ben likes the idea because he will know that if he gets one of these messages, then he will always hear it and will know it’s important. He will also have the ability to send me these messages – so there is a mutual understanding that using ReplyASAP is only for important things and not because he needs new batteries for his Xbox controller.

He’s quick to point out that the app has uses beyond communicating with your kids. “When speaking to my friends, they could all see other ‘grown up’ uses for the app because the majority of them kept their phones on silent most of the time too. Their suggestions ranged from changing your order when your friend is getting the drinks in at the bar, to finding your phone when you’ve misplaced it at home, to work situations when you need to get hold of work colleagues quickly.”

Since Herbert launched the app for Android almost18 months ago, it’s been downloaded over 100,000 times.

Currently, the app is only available for Android users. Multiple plans are available, allowing users to connect to anywhere from one to 20 users, at prices ranging between $0.99 to $13.

Apple has declined to add it to their app store because of its location and sound features, so Herbert says he’ll keep working on it until he comes up with a version that meets Apple’s specs.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Funny Twitter Accounts All Parents Should Follow

By Tracey Dowdy

It didn’t take long after my first daughter was born to learn the secret to surviving parenthood is a sense of humor. God makes babies adorable so we can forgive them for POW levels of sleep deprivation; toddlers are really just tiny frat boys stumbling around, shouting incoherently, peeing wherever they choose; and teenagers flip flop between making us oh so proud and making us wonder why we didn’t just get a dog when we longed for the pitter patter of tiny feet.

No matter how old your children are, whether you parent one or are mom to your own Little League team, these Twitter accounts can help you see the funny side of parenting – even on days when you feel like your kids should have come with some kind of FDA warning.

@XplodingUnicorn

“My 3-year-old hugged me out of the blue and said, “I love you, Dad.” If you need me, I’ll be searching the house for whatever she broke.”

James Breakwell is dad to four daughters and his tweets about their conversations and day-to-day life as a husband and dad will leave you in stitches.


@byclintedwards

“I’ve never been held hostage, but I have listened to my daughter recount an episode of “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.”

Clint Edwards is the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (Parenting. Marriage. Madness.).” His “No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog” is filled with gems like “Lies I’ve Told My Children to Get Them to Try New Foods” and “Crimes Committed by My Toddler,” so both his Twitter and blog are worth following.


@PerfectPending

“I almost made eye contact with my kids when they were playing happily together like some sort of parenting amateur or something.”

With a tagline of “Let’s stop trying to be perfect, and just be the moms we were meant to be”, you can’t help but feel mother of three Meredith is a kindred spirit. She also has a great blog with recipes that kids will actually eat and posts like “There is No Such Thing as Mothering Without Regrets.” It too is worth checking out.


@FoxyWinePocket

“Son: Are you eating pie for breakfast?
Me (eating pie): No. Fruit casserole. Want some?
Son: NO. I hate casserole.
Me (whispers): I know…”

Kathryn Leehane’s irreverent, sometimes inappropriate but totally relatable tweets will drive you to her blog where she shares her “twisted suburban mom stories” and love of “oversharing and Jason Bateman.”


@JennaWrites

I just showered AND shaved AND dried my hair AND put on makeup. I do not believe you that people actually do this every day.”

TED Talk speaker and author of “Everything’s Relative”, and “If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon”, Jenna (not Jenny) McCarthy is cheeky, witty, and honest. She’s also written several children’s books, so you and your kids will soon have the same favorite author.


@HonestToddler

“The park before naptime looks like a Trump rally.”

Honest Toddler started on Twitter, became a blog, is now a book and has remained100% laugh out loud funny each step of the way. Bunmi Latidan is the mama behind the tweets presented from the perspective of an entitled, sassy, clever toddler who likes “attention, cake, television, running & games.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Talking to Your Kids About Online Porn

By Tracey Dowdy

When I was a kid, some of the neighborhood boys kept a stash of “dirty magazines” in a dilapidated outhouse near one of their homes. It was the 1970’s not the 1870’s and we all had indoor plumbing, so it was obvious what they were up to if we saw them sneaking in or out of that outhouse.

Now it’s so easy to access porn that Playboy announced late last year that it would no longer publish pictures of nudes in its magazine. As Playboy CEO Scott Flanders told the New York Times, “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

One click away indeed. Porn has become so accessible that it’s not a matter of if your kids will be exposed so much as when. Take it from Elizabeth Schroeder, Executive Director of Answer, a national sex-education organization based at Rutgers University, “Your child is going to look at porn at some point. It’s inevitable.”

Consider these statistics from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding:

  • The average age of a child’s first exposure to Internet pornography is 11
  • The 12-17-year age group is the largest consumer of Internet pornography
  • Only 3 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls have never seen Internet pornography

Do those numbers surprise you? Sadly, they shouldn’t. Just last year my husband, a family therapist, was part of a research study on youth and sexuality. His team was looking for a control group of 11-year-old boys who had not been exposed to online pornography but they weren’t able to find any. None. Not one.

By now it’s obvious that either by accident or design, your child is going to see images that perhaps neither you nor your child are ready to see. Having “the talk” used to be a conversation about biology and a responsible approach toward sex as a young adult, but now we need to include a third topic: online pornography.

Even with age-appropriate filters on laptops and other devices, exposure is as easy as a forwarded sext from a friend or a few clicks on YouTube. When it happens, it’s important you react as you would with any other behavior or activity that you’re unhappy with and you have a measured response.

Though experts stress the importance of having that conversation before Pandora’s box is opened, sometimes it’s too late. Either way, it’s important for us to talk to our kids – boy and girl – no matter how awkward or embarrassing.

  • If your child has been exposed to porn, respond don’t react. In other words, don’t freak out. Normalize their behavior. Curiosity about bodies, sex, and sexuality are a normal part of childhood development. What is important in this situation is to help your child understand that what’s portrayed in pornography is not an accurate depiction of real life relationships. One dad used WWE wrestling as an analogy to help his son understand that what is portrayed is often fake.
  • Make the issue about pornography and not the child. Use a “no shame, no blame” approach and have a conversation instead of giving a lecture. While keeping the discussion age-appropriate, focus on what they’ve seen, not what they’ve done. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be consequences, but rather than a Draconian “No more internet ever!” approach, discuss what the consequences should be and follow through. The point of discipline is to change behavior, not simply to punish your child.
  • Keep it simple. Let’s be honest – this is going to be an awkward conversation for both of you. Keep the language simple, know where you’re going before you get started, and be open to where your child’s questions lead. Use examples or illustrations that will resonate with your kids – video games, movies, TV shows, or even the WWE like the dad in the earlier example.
  • Listen. Just listen and let them lead. This is an emotionally charged issue, it’s embarrassing, it’s uncomfortable, but when possible let your child direct the conversation. Allowing them a measure of control takes some of the fear away and can open the door to a more honest dialogue. Ask open ended questions like “How do you feel about what you saw?”
  • Depending on the age and maturity of the child, talk about the impact of pornography on society and on individual relationships. There are numerous studies linking pornography to individuals who commit sex crimes and while obviously not everyone who looks at porn becomes a sex offender, constant exposure to the unrealistic portrayal of sex can lead to distorted perspectives and expectations and have an impact on their real-world relationships.
  • Watch their response to what they’ve seen. Not only has pornography become more accessible, it’s become increasingly graphic and violent. Depending on their age and what they’ve seen, your child may be traumatized by the images. Often kids are overwhelmed and confused, so keep an eye out for changes in behavior or indications they may need additional help coming to terms with what they’ve seen.

Just as with any other risky or inappropriate behavior your child engages in, your response is critical. If you freak out and shame your child, often they will not feel safe coming to you with questions or concerns in the future. If you want them to turn to you for answers and not their peers (or god-forbid, the Internet), then a calm, understanding response will make all the difference.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.