The F.A.M.I.L.Y. Model of Parental Supervision
Familiarize yourself with the threats against your children. Ensuring the health and safety of your children requires early intervention when issues arise. If you are unable to recognize the "red flags" of a problem that exists, immediate corrective action is not possible. Do you know what it suggests if your teenager sucks on baby pacifiers, what drug is commonly transported in a water bottle, or which sportswear and designer clothing are used by gangs to identify their members?
Accept that all children need supervision and guidance. By virtue of their age, children lack the knowledge, maturity of judgment, and experience of adults. Just because a child has a high grade-point average in school does not mean he or she is capable of making major life decisions, or resisting the negative influence of peers. Don't mistakenly confuse physical with emotional development either. Your 12-year-old son or daughter may look 18, but he or she is still a child inside.
Monitor the activities of your children. Parents have a responsibility to know where their children are at all times, who they are with, and what they are up to. This requires setting guidelines for children to follow, including limits on their behavior and expectations. Sanctions and incentives are important in enforcing boundaries. Know all of your child's friends and work together with their parents. Verify what your children are up to.
Investigate anything that may be suspicious. Adopt a balanced approach to parenting. The level of your intervention should correlate with the severity of the situation. Be careful not to become accusatory in tone, or you may destroy the bond that exists between you and your children. Trust is critical. Some matters require only a basic inquiry, like calling the parent of your child's friend to confirm their whereabouts. Other issues, such as suspected gang membership, substance abuse, reckless sexual practices, or running away from home, represent imminent threats to your child's well-being and warrant more invasive measures. Resist the temptation to confront your children with what you find. Instead, approach them with love and support.
Listen to your children and learn from them. You know your children better than anyone else. Be observant and receptive to them. Learn to recognize what makes your children happy or sad, when things are going well, or when something is wrong. Listen, understand, and support them. Above all, treat your children with respect. Always be available for them and they will come to you with their problems.
Yearn to help your children when problems arise. Put the interests of your children before your own. Don't be selfish. Remember, this isn't about you; it's about helping them. Disregard what your friends, colleagues, or neighbors might think. Feelings of embarrassment or humiliation waste precious time that you could be using to seek out appropriate treatment and services for your children. Ignoring the problem will only place them at greater risk.
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