Debilitating Fear and the Iron Dome

cartoon courtesy of

This morning on Here and Now, a radio show on NPR, invited guest speaker Lenore Skenazy, reality show host, to talk about issues in extreme helicopter parenting. In her show, World’s Worst Mom, Skenazy addresses a new level of fear in parents:  one young mother is so afraid that her children might get raped or kidnapped by strangers that she does not allow her 13 year old son to go to the men’s restroom alone at a mall.  She takes him with her into the women’s restroom.  She and her mother call her husband a “dummy” for letting their son go to the restroom alone.  She tells her children not to talk to strangers, because “strangers will kill you.”

Six years ago, Skenazy let her then-9 year old son to take the New York subway by himself.  Criticized as “America’s Worst Mom,” Skenazy blogged and eventually wrote a book about helicopter parenting and the need to give children a little more independence.  On the show, Skenazy talked about the different sources of fear, such as the media, traumatic personal experiences, and even the parents’ parents’ fear for the safety of their grandchildren.  There is so much news coverage about child abductions, rape, emotional abuse, that it is not very surprising that parents are now debilitated by fear for the safety of their children.

I admit it is difficult to ignore these news stories.  For instance, last week, I read about the story of Etan Patz, a little boy who went missing after he went to school alone for the first time, 30 years ago.  He was 6 years old.

“That was the last time I saw him. I watched him walk one block away,” Julie Patz testified at the murder trial of store clerk Pedro Hernandez, who’s accused of killing Etan. “I turned around and went back upstairs and that was the last time.”

I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that might happen to my daughter and resolved to take her to school myself until she is old enough to drive.  That resolve lasted about 2 days.

Fear can be helpful in parenting, such as making sure my child wears a helmet even when she rides her bike in my driveway, away from the street.  However, there is a point where fear is so debilitating, preventing parents from letting their children develop properly, causing their children serious emotional harm.  It is difficult to know when to stop and let go, there’s no doubt about that. There is no perfect way to be a parent.  We all have our own beliefs and strategies.  But we must remind ourselves that children don’t stay children forever, and they need to learn how to do things for themselves.



California Legislature Seeks to Ban Same-Sex Attraction Therapy for Children

Senator Ted Lieu (D-Redondo Beach) introduced SB 1172 in February 2012 after seeing a news piece about the harmful effects of trying to change a child’s sexual orientation.  Young people have committed suicide because of therapy to change their sexual orientation.  Serious harm is a very real possibility with these types of therapies.

SB 1172 would “prohibit a mental health provider, as defined, from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts [SOCE], as defined, with a patient under 18 years of age. The bill would provide that any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age by a mental health provider shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity.”  SOCE is also known as “reparative therapy” and “conversion therapy.”

The American Psychological Association recommends affirmative therapies for adults and teens seeking help coping with their sexual orientation.  The APA found that Sexual Orientation Change Efforts did not result in lasting change in sexual orientation and could have harmful effects so as low self-esteem and depression.

SB 1172 sparks a new debate over a parent’s right to choose what is best for their children and the state’s need to intervene to protect children.  As parents can be required to put their young children in car seats and be prohibited from buying alcohol or tobacco for their children, I see this bill as following on the side of laws to prevent harm to children.  However, whether or not it will pass into law remains to be seen. If it does become a California law, will other states follow suit?

White House Launches Money Management Training for Children

The White House has launched a new interactive website for children and their parents called Money As You Grow: 20 Things Kids Need To Know To Live Financially Smart Lives. Ultimately, the goal of the website is to guide parents on how to teach their children about finances, saving for the future, and other money-related lessons.

The website features a fairly easy-to-use system, where the child (or parent) can click on the appropriate age group (3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-18, and 18+) and view four main lessons that they should either learn or be taught by their parents. When a lesson is clicked, several activities are listed that can reinforce that particular lesson. For example, under the age group of children that are 11 to 13-years-old, one lesson is, “You should save at least a dime for every dollar you receive.” From there, one of the activities listed to reinforce that lesson is, “Have your child set a goal to buy something he wants, and have him work toward that amount.”

The lessons and activities obviously grow more relevant and complex as the age bracket increases. For instance, in the oldest age group, one of the lessons is, “You should use a credit card only if you can pay off the money owed in full each month.” This is extremely age-appropriate given the fact that many students finishing high school are offered credit cards by the dozen. If not told to do otherwise, this can lead to financial problems that will follow the child for years, if not forever.

The idea is to create an environment where the child and parent are working together with the activities to learn the listed lesson. The website creates talking points for parents who may not know exactly where to start when it comes to talking to their kids about finances. Many parents do not even realize how important it is to instill ideals of saving and future-oriented thinking in their children at a young age. Furthermore, even if a parent is aware of the importance of these early conversations, they might not be aware of exactly which type of lessons are appropriate for which age groups.

Critics of the website and of the White House’s main objectives might say the website lacks depth and makes a complex situation seem far too simple. Other critics point out that fiscal responsibility is something that we should rely on families and our educational system to instill in our children, and not the federal government. Still others in opposition to the website have no problem with the goals of the website, but question the amount of money put toward funding this website while there are plenty of other pressing issues that need substantial funding from the federal government.

Although the website is certainly not going to solve all of our nation’s financial problems and it cannot (and does not attempt to) guarantee children exposed to these lessons will never face financial difficulty, it does create a starting point for discussion and education as to these issues. Given the ceaseless conversations and focus on the rising unemployment rate in our country, it seems like any conversation with children aimed to at least raise awareness is a good conversation to have. I think the website is an excellent base for a lot of growth, and if expanded, it could be an extremely beneficial tool for parents and children.

For a review of the website, see The Huffington Post’s article.