One Thing Parents Can Do To Protect Their Kids: Offer A Counter Story
I had two heart breaking conversations this week. Two educators in two different schools are each facing a group of 5th grade girls and boys who are over-sexualized, over-exposed, and acting inappropriately for their age. Ten year olds.
These are kids who are experiencing what we call push factors: environmental conditions outside of their control which push them into manipulation, exploitation, and eventual trafficking. Family chaos, substance abuse, physical and sexual abuse, housing insecurity, delinquency, truancy, and culture, to name a few.
While some of those risk factors are absent in child trafficked victims, we cannot deny the power of culture to create negative push factors for all:
1. Girls are told (by music videos, fashion, advertising, movies, fiction, etc.) that their value and worth come from being a sex object.
2. Boys are told (by the same) that their value and worth come from being a pimp- a veritable compliment indicating he’s cool, suave, and gets the girl. (Kids have no idea “PIMP” means Prostitute In My Possession).
These 5th graders have internalized the messages. Compounded by older siblings and parents who are uninvolved (at best) and negatively influencing or harming them, they have begun to act out. It is to be expected.
But there is one girl. She was friends with the group. Headed down the wrong path. Recently, she pulled away. Out of her own strength and resiliency and inner compass, she went out on her own. At age 10, this is unreal!
The difference? A parent is involved and is offering a counter story.
Counter stories are the ones we tell our kids when they are crumpled in a heap of tears because they don’t have the designer shoes, the boy chose the best friend, the Instagram pic proves she was rejected, everyone knows you must have a boyfriend to be anybody… We metabolize the emotion, and the drama, and the teen angst and offer it back up in the form of mature, grounded, meta-narrative. We build them up through our praise, our pride, and our perspective. We don’t just listen, we offer another version. A better version. A healthier version.We don't just listen, we offer another version. A better version. Click To Tweet
Involved parents who offer counter stories protect their kids from negative push factors that create a cluster of vulnerabilities which lead to trafficking. Want to protect your child from being trafficked?
Offer a counter story.