The State of the State | Talking to Colorado Moms About What Matters
On April 26th the Moms Fight Back Colorado Moms Tour stopped in Centennial. Our guests – Ann Pogue of the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Susan Payne of Safe2Tell, and Bethany Drosendahl of Your Open Gate – shared their expertise and educated a room full of moms on a series of difficult topics ranging from school data security to the actual physical security in Colorado’s schools, to teen sexual assault and child abuse, to suicide and the prevalence of marijuana use among our youth and teens.
After hearing from several moms in attendance, I can tell you that several specific issues stood out:
1) Life is not easy for children and teens in 2016. The list of issues confronting our kids is excruciatingly long, hard to fathom, and sadly, very adult in nature.
2) Safe2Tell is a program, which every Coloradan – and, not just parents and teachers, but every Coloradan that is a neighbor to, mentor to, or just tangentially connected to a youth – should be fully aware of and ready to use. I urge you to take a look at Safe2Tell here.
3) Parental engagement is completely essential to the health and safety of our children. Just as parental engagement is the number one indicator of a child’s success in school, the same can be said about our child’s safety.
It is on point three, parental engagement, that I want to take the time to repeat here what was discussed at the event, for the larger Moms Fight Back Community. Specifically, I want to take about parental engagement in terms of protecting our kids from sexual assault, internet predators, and marijuana use.
In terms of sexual assault, Ann pointed out that in her experience as Deputy District attorney, she “see(s) a lot of situations, and I would say 98% of the actual sexual assault situations that I see whether it’s on children or whether it’s on adults are instances where the child knew the person that committed the sexual assault… We aren’t talking about men in white vans, I don’t know, driving around, picking up your kids. We are talking about your teachers, next door neighbors, babysitters. So it’s people that you might know and a lot of these people are just master manipulators.” The takeaway here is that as parents – we need to know who our kids are spending time with – both in school and outside of school. The most vulnerable kids and teens are those don’t seem to have ‘eyes on them.’ Be engaged.
In terms of internet sexual exploitation of our youth, there is a wide range of both victims and perpetrators. Again, the best defense here is parent engagement. And, while it may be difficult, we should not be afraid to look at our kid’s phone or other devices and to tell her/him that there are boundaries, responsibilities, and expectations that come with using these devices.
Also, we need to do our research on the multitude of social media apps that our kids are using. Predators research these apps and know where kids hang out – we need to do the same. Apps change all the time, and our kids are communicating through them all the time. Again, parent engagement – it’s up to the adults in our kids’ lives to be researching what’s out there and helping defend against dangerous situations, virtual or otherwise.
When it comes to marijuana use, we need to realize that it’s an issue right here in Colorado. Our panelists pointed out that there is a dangerous mentality right now, particularly because of the recent legalization of marijuana in our state. The (mis)perception is, that because it’s legal – it must by ok. Further, our kids hear ‘
Further, our kids hear ‘Marijuana, it’s natural therefore it’s good for me. It’s better than drinking. It’s something that I can do in lieu of these other really bad things and it won’t affect me.’ Obviously, that’s just not the case.
As parents, we have to engage our kids and strike up a different conversation. We need to educate them on the very real effects of marijuana, and how it can negatively impact their future. We need to focus on how usage today really can affect performance in high school and later on down the road in college. Further, and as mentioned earlier, because our kids see the state of Colorado saying it’s legal and therefore it’s okay, we need to stress to our kids that while it might be legal for adults, it is certainly not legal for children or for anyone under the age of 21. And, there is a reason for that – marijuana negatively impacts brain development and those effects are permanent and long lasting. Again, it all comes back to parent engagement: watch what your kids are doing, know who they are hanging out with and communicate with them about marijuana usage.
So many topics were discussed at this tour stop, and I wish I could cover them all in this post. We’re looking forward to our next tour stops and further conversations with Colorado moms about what’s most concerning when it comes to the health and safety of our kids – and what we can do, as moms, to protect them.
What we all need to remember is to be engaged – and to be engaged early in our children’s lives.