Over the past week, I’ve had the privilege to attend a diverse range of conversations and gatherings, including a small meeting with a school family, listening in last week’s school WCCS parent seminar with Dr. Patricia Weerakoon (Sex Education in the Cyber World) and participating on an online panel discussion regarding understanding AI in Education. Each of these gatherings emphasised the importance of regular and open communication between parents/carers and children.
I heard in my conversation with a parent about how they talked around the dinner table on a regular basis. We discussed how ‘the most important piece of furniture in the house is the dinner table’. I’ve never heard this said about the dinner table before, but I have to agree. Having a space in which the family gathers to regularly share about how life is going is essential to maintaining healthy family connections.
The reality is that our experiences of family meals can range from being frustrating with everyone fighting, to an apparently boring ‘everyday’ kind of meal to being part of a joyous time with lots of good-natured fun and laughter. I would encourage families to persist with this routine of eating and talking together while they can, persisting through the boring or frustrating times. Commitment to gather as a family can help make talking to one another and learning to work through issues positively, a normal part of life. It can add to the richness of the family and helps all of us understand each other and our busy lives a little better. The business of life can really push important but less urgent activities to the side, so even committing to one night a week when everyone is together can help build communication lines. These established connections help reduce the awkward nature of more challenging conversations like those in relation to matters of understanding the significance of sexual relations and the wise and ethical use of technology.
Dr. Weerakoon’s parent seminar last week included a lot of thoughtful information on the important topic of Sex and Gender. The standout for me was the importance of discussing this with our children from an early age, in a clear, accurate, and age-appropriate manner. This is a challenging set of conversations and establishing a pattern of open communication can help pave the way. For those who would like to know more about talking with family on this topic from a biblical perspective, Dr. Weerakoon has written books suitable for children of different age ranges as well as for parents and adults. Further information can be found at https://patriciaweerakoon.com/writing/
On the topic of digital technology, our children often have a great deal of knowledge that may outstrip ours – but don’t feel this excludes you from participating in these conversations. Talking about cyber safety can benefit your learning about a rapidly changing part of our world. What you can bring to the conversation is understanding and wisdom. While kids are amazing at technology, we need to remember they are still young and still need adult supervision and safety nets around their online world. They might be tech savvy but not tech street smart. Children also use the internet and technology very differently from adults. It is our responsibility to understand these differences. While you may not understand all the details of the digital world you do bring understanding and wisdom that your children are yet to achieve. You can likely see implications that go beyond the immediate technological know-how of your children.
Open communication on topics like sex and technology use means safe conversations where both children and adults can share ideas in an environment of calmness, trust, and safety. It doesn’t necessarily mean long, deep, and meaningful (and confronting?) conversations. Rather it’s a matter of a ‘a little a lot’. On many occasions, smaller moments of chatting about life will help create openings for more significant topics.
It doesn’t have to be at dinner time, it could be on bike rides or walks, driving to or from activities. For older teens logging learner driver hours is a prime time for chats (120 hours is a long time together!). Sharing online content and spending time with your child playing their games can also be a great way to engage with them whilst finding out more about their online world.
There are also many resources available that can support parents in the challenges of raising their children in living wisely in a technologically immersive world. Here are four sources of support that you may find helpful:
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Teach them [commands to love and obey the Lord] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Mr Keith McMullen