“Ok, so, one of your child’s church friends, neighbor and school bus seat buddy shares one night before bed her “secrets” with your daughter of 13 yo. Choice topics are shared such as her having the desire to watch porn and have sweet feelings toward others of the same sex. Previously, she has admitted to “cutting” and enjoys dressing in fish net stockings, immulating “EMO” for the sake of looking goth and often struggles with aggression, such as physical contact with your daughter and others. At one point, the cutting was brought to the school counselors attention but denied that it was a cat scratch, making your daughter look non-credible. This young lady strives to appear wholesome and innocent in public. She does carry a history of school and church disruption but “appeared” to look like she has redeemed herself.
So, would you suggest to approach the parent, school counselor and or pastor? if so, with what approach and with whom first? Would driving her to school to avoid the bus encounters help or changing time services at church to avoid the contact? Not sure if abandoning this kid is the answer and with this sort of behavior sounds like a scream for help??” – Mom Who Wants to Help
Such a great question! It is in my opinion that it takes a village to raise a child, but it is also important to be respectful of the villagers and not every villager cares to have their child raised by someone else.
Our first priority in our village is our own child. In this situation, open communication between parent and child is imperative. We want our children to feel safe to talk openly with us about any concerns they have for their friends. At age 13, especially girls, teenagers tend to be very protective of their friends, so any inkling of perceived judgment from us can quickly make them retreat and clam up. Once we have our child’s trust and are engaged in a good dialogue, we can begin to share our own concerns about behaviors that make us feel uncomfortable and why. If the friend is choosing behaviors we know can lead to a negative consequence, we can explain this to our child so they can start to understand the cause and effect of our concerns. Under our guidance, walking beside a friend in need can be a great learning experience for our child. With that said, if your child starts to exhibit the same behaviors and you feel their friends influence is stronger than your own, its time to pull the plug on time spent with the child under your control, such as time spent at your house or events with the other child.
As for the other village child, it is equally important to address our concerns for other children, as we are all in this big, crazy and wonderful world together. Sexual feelings and curiosity is par for the course for adolescent development, as is experimentation…even if it is terrifying to think about and certainly presents some significant risks of its own. Not to mention that today’s children seem to be far more advanced in their forms of self expression than generations prior. But “cutting” and any other form of self injury is not.
In this situation, the child’s parent is always the best place to start, depending on your relationship with the other parent. They are responsible for their child and their well being and should be notified of the concerns, especially in a situation where the child is harming themselves. If you are not in a position where you feel comfortable talking to the other parent, use the school counselor or pastor as a vehicle for communicating with the parent and helping the child. They can also assist the family with resources to further aid the child. If you feel the counselor is not responsive to the concern, feel free to call someone else at the school and ask that the parent be contacted. This is normal protocol with self injurious behavior, so it’s not like you are asking for something unusual. It sounds like this particular child is in need of attention and will continue these behaviors until they have a reason not to or have found another behavior to replace it, which could go either way. And it sounds like you have a child who is open to help, as are you. Which to me means, this child is very fortunate to be living in your village.