Friday, February 1, 2008

The Cautionary Tale of Child Celebrities: Protect & Parent Your Kids While They're IN Your Home

Watching the spectacle of celebrities who have grown up in the limelight is always a disturbing and yet somehow intriguing thing. Perhaps because it's so unusual. Perhaps because each of us yearns to be noteworthy, and we get curious about what it must be like. Perhaps because we recognize the likelihood for problems that will develop because of the choice to put your teenager in front of the world for public consumption as an actor/musician/celebrity at some of the most awkward and formative years of life.

When I read this morning about Britney Spears' dad basically getting temporary custody of Britney, to provide security, control visitors to her hospital room, and possibly make medical decisions on her behalf, it struck me that he's basically re-gained permission to be her dad. Now. At age twenty-six.

I don't want to make this post about Britney in particular... and I'm not trying to be salacious or jump on a "hip" Entertainment-Tonight-sort of story. But how sad it is that now, as an adult, with several marriages under her belt, she is only now being protected by her daddy. Why are they only now, with suicide concerns and relationships with two precious children at risk, stepping in? Why don't parents have the sense to parent when their children are in their homes? Why was she being shopped out to various programs, record labels, and TV shows as a teenager, and now, as an adult, her life is in shambles? Because she was pretty? Because she could sing and dance? Perhaps because she had some talents that they felt obligated to nourish?

My point for us is this: we have a window of influence as parents. We can use it wisely, and prepare our children for life as adults during these roughly two decades we're given with tremendous influence and control over our children's lives and environment. OR we can use it for ill in their lives. Either way, it will be used.

Using this time wisely does require that we protect them from harmful influences that they aren't yet ready for, as youths. But it's not about shielding them from all potential harm or struggles--absolutely not! They need to be exposed to adult life, and have (in my view) at least several years of practice making adult-ish decisions before they leave our homes.

At the same time, we must be cautious in the size of the load we place on our children.
It's not just celebrity-kids' parents who are at risk for this. Parents of gifted students, for example, run the risk of encouraging their offspring to believe that intellect is the most important thing in life. Christian homeschool parents can (and too often, DO) place too big of expectations on their children, expecting near-sainthood and compliance with every rule and regulation while in the home, only to watch the unraveling of their children's morality and worldview as they enter adult life, with real world problems and decisions on their plates.

Giving our children increasing opportunities to make adult-type decisions and real choices while they grow up in our homes is a good and necessary thing, but we must also be careful not to forget that they are children, protecting and guarding them from the influences of the outside world.

It's such a balance, but clearly, the stakes are high, and it's worth our while to consider these things and develop a "game plan" of sorts-- to consider how much responsibility and what kinds of decisions each of our children is ready to take on.

What are your thoughts on how to go about this?

How do we balance introducing our children to real-world issues & choices while protecting them from the ever-deteriorating influence of the world around us?

How can we encourage legitimate gifts and talents to flourish and be displayed while our children are growing, without making the gifts/talents the focus?

How do you approach and deal with these challenges in your family? I look forward to hearing from you!

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