A lot has changed in the 20 years I have been practicing psychology. Day after day, for two decades, I have welcomed little faces of various ages and of from varied backgrounds. These little faces have greeted me with a variety of emotion. Sometimes shyness, sometimes excitement. Sometimes shame is heavy in the air and tears are running down their cheeks.
The reasons why these little faces came to see me have changed drastically over the years. At first, I heard about bullying on the playground and fights between siblings. I heard about failed math tests and mean stepmothers. And about wet beds and temper tantrums.
Then, these stories changed.
Now, they have become more raw and intense. I now hear stories about the mortification of sexual awakening caught on film and shared with millions. Embarrassment so thick and heavy that breaths cannot be taken. Little ones gasping for air. I’ve seen arms and legs so devastated by cutting that emergency room doctors have had to put casts over them to prevent more cutting and allow skin to finally heal. I’ve sat with parents so desperate for help that they’ve scrimped and saved to pay for mental health care not covered by our universal healthcare system, because a wound to the soul is not treated the same as a wound to a limb.
As a child psychologist, I have a unique perspective. I have been allowed to see a high-resolution reflection of our new reality. I have witnessed firsthand the tangible results of the decisions we have made in the lives of the most vulnerable amongst us. And I want to share it with you.
Our children are our most precious resource and they need our help and protection. It needs to be our most burning priority. And, we need to support the people who are working tirelessly to help protect and nurture children. We need to foster resilience in our systems that strengthen families and support health, welfare, and education. We need to work together to ensure that as we hold onto the accelerated reality of the 21st-century, we do not leave our children behind in our wake.
When I am in a therapy session and I am facing a situation so dysfunctional and chaotic, I always go back to my training. I was taught to consider: what is the very best next thing to do? What is the priority? What next step will have the greatest positive effect. When I take this training and apply it to our children today, I am left with one clear idea: We must help them develop a healthy understanding about the very nature of the inception of their lives. We must elevate the value of their invaluable life. Every single life matters and how those lives began matters too. So, yes, this means sex. We need to teach children to honour and respect sexuality. It all starts there.
With pornography permeating screens everywhere, I have observed that our children are developing very unhealthy perspectives on sexuality. Sexuality has become an amusement park ride for many, with the thrill and excitement being the main attraction. Gone – or at least minimized – are the basic concepts of consent, respect for others and loving intimacy. We have forgotten that it is through sexuality that new lives are formed. A precious outcome for a precious human experience. This experience needs to be honoured, not exploited.
So, when I take a step back and consider what is the best next step to help the children of this dysfunctional age, I am convinced it needs to be to help them better understand and honour sexuality. The discourse needs to be elevated. This understanding cannot be obtained from screens, it needs to be obtained from the very source of life itself – a child’s parents.
Parents need guidance to begin, extend, and enrich these discussions. “The Talk” can no longer be a single moment in time right before puberty. It needs to start earlier, focus on the heart as well as the body–and be continued and evolve over time. Parents need to scrap any squeamishness they might have and assume the role as sexuality mentor to their children.
I know that this is a big and overwhelming task. When I talk to parents about it, many tell me that they never even had a discussion about the facts of life with their own parents. Many mothers tell me that they have never seen pornography themselves and so have no idea what their children might have seen. Parents tell me that they have no idea where to start, as this job didn’t come with an instruction manual.
To create the biggest positive ripple effect I possibly can I created that manual. I considered everything I have ever researched, taught, counseled and distilled it into a seven point parental compass to help parents navigate these tricky waters. This compass provides wise guidance, rather than rules, that can be used at any stage in the parental journey.
This seven point parental compass can be found in my upcoming book, Kids, Sex & Screens: Raising Strong, Resilient Children in the Sexualized Digital Age. You can help today’s children and parents by helping me spread the word. Tell everyone you know—like your friends, relatives, and your children’s teachers—about this essential resource. You can really help create positive change by pre-ordering a copy on Amazon to ensure that the book gets noticed, featured and better marketed.
My dream is to see this book everywhere, getting everyone’s attention. It will enable parents everywhere to inoculate their children against the dangers of online pornography. Children will have a better chance of growing up into emotionally and sexually healthy adults who are able to create and sustain intimate relationships. This will literally create a positive ripple effect for our next generations of children who will sprout from these intimate relationships. Please join me in creating a cycle of love, honour and respect.
– Dr. Jillian Roberts
Dr. Roberts’ new parenting book Kids, Sex & Screens: Raising Strong, Resilient Children in the Sexualized Digital Age is available December 11th. Learn more here.