Parents generally do a good job of shepherding their children through the first 10 to 12 years of their lives, author and pediatrician Meg Meeker says. Then many moms and dads drop the ball.
“Once our kids start to hit puberty, we parents have bought into the belief that we are no longer the primary influence and power in our teenagers’ lives. So when our kids hit puberty, we back out.
“I see this in very bright, well-educated, well-meaning parents, particularly professional parents.
“The teenager (wonders), ‘What just happened? Where’d they go?’ They don’t express that, but that’s how they feel.”
Meeker, a Traverse City, Mich., resident who earned her medical degree in 1984 from the University of Cincinnati, frequently appears on national radio and television shows to discuss parenting and family issues. Her books include “Your Kids at Risk” and “Strong Fathers/Strong Daughters.” Her sixth book, “The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers,” is due out soon.
She will speak to parents about improving their relationships with their children, especially teens, at 7 p.m. Monday at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center in Norwood. Tickets are $30.
Studies show that a connection to parents is the No. 1 deterrent when it comes to young people avoiding alcohol, sex, drugs and violence, says Meeker, a married mother of three daughters and a son ages 19-27.
“It means (as a parent) I’m going to stay a strong authority and lead (the child) through these years. I’m not going to be (the child’s) best friend, but I’m not going to be overbearing, either. I’m here to say, ‘It’s a tough world out there. You’re bombarded with so much auditory stimulation and visual stimulation and messages that aren’t very good. My job is to help you navigate that stuff.’ ”
Parents’ failure to do so has given rise to disturbing trends, she says, including the over-sexualization of young girls, who often believe “that they need to be sexually active early in order to have a sense of value.
“And nobody says, ‘That’s not OK.’
“I have girls in the first grade come into my office wearing bras and thongs,” she says. “Parents say, ‘The other little girls in her class wear them, and I don’t want her to feel odd.’ ”
It’s parental peer pressure, Meeker says, that often prevents parents from doing the right thing.
“The best thing I can do to advocate for kids is to encourage their parents to love them better, to communicate with them better, to talk to them about the hard stuff, like sex, and not parent out of fear, but parent out of strength.”