If you want to entertain yourself for a bit, type in “raising teenagers” on your search engine. You’ll either cry or laugh until you cry, depending on your day. Funny memes abound, such as “raising teenagers is like nailing jello to a tree”. Then you scroll past the funniness and see all manner of articles confirming that parents of teenagers are in a battle envied by no one ever: “Raising Teenagers: The mother of all problems” and lots of offers for parenting help!
The teenage years are such a conundrum. An entire future is forming inside this young life that needs to be nurtured and learn to spread its wings. Yet at the same, time that young life needs to be protected. Dangers abound for these vulnerable children. Their preexisting moodiness, unpredictable hormones, and the freedoms that come with the teen years (driving, jobs, extra-curricular activities) can make it difficult to notice when their lives are headed down the wrong path. So how do we keep our teens safe?
We can’t fight what we don’t understand.
Let’s talk about Romeo pimps. These are the boogeyman of the sex trafficking world, the invisible threat. They are manipulative and often no one sees them coming. Romeo pimps invest time into grooming our own children against us until they come running right into his arms. How can you fight this for your children?
Educate yourself and educate your kids. We can’t fight what we don’t understand. While you read this post, have your kids sit down and read last week’s post for 6 Tools for Teens. When you’re done, discuss! Together, you can make her a much harder target.
Four Warning Signs for Parents
from Catholic Charities
1. Money and Clothes
The grooming process often involves money, clothing or other expensive items like smart phones. These gifts will make the child feel special and could make them feel indebted. In time, she will come to rely on this person to meet her needs.
2. New Friends
If she’s making friends who are older or more independent—it may be a warning sign. Traffickers will often lie about their age or use other teens as recruiters. If your teen starts spending time with a new boyfriend or a new group of friends, ask questions. Knowing who your child is with and what they are doing is important for their safety.
3. Unexpected Absences
Skipping school, missing curfew, or unexplainable absences should cause you to ask questions. While these signs are not proof your child is being sex trafficked, it could be a sign of other risky behaviors that are leading up to being trafficked.
4. Change in Behavior
Teens that are being groomed by sex traffickers may also have a change in behavior. If you notice that your child has become withdrawn, angry, depressed, have changes in sleeping/eating patterns or other big changes do not chalk it up to teenage hormones. Take the time to look further, especially when presented with any of the other signs mentioned above.
How?? How in the world are we supposed to recognize these signs in our kids who are always changing friends and acting out and ordering random things from Amazon??
I challenge you to ask yourself a different question. Ask yourself: who in the world knows your child best? Who knows your child better than they even know themselves? Just like last week we challenged the teens to look deep down and realize that their parents really do know best, we challenge you to be that parent who does know best. If your Spidey Sense is tingling over a situation with your kid, there’s a reason.
If you pose the question to yourself and you know deep down that you are not the person who knows your kid best, that they put their trust in someone else (a mentor, teacher) make a point to sit down and chat with that person. Share these tips so you know your child is being watched over.
Now go talk with those teens and always keep a watchful eye.
Tune in next week for tips on how to stay safe online!