I attended a “moms of girls” meeting last night at which Officer Robert Ramsey, Highland Park High School’s new Safety Resource Officer, addressed the group about raising girls. What does he know about girls? Quite a bit, actually, though his background sounds pretty Tough Guy. While raising two daughters, Officer Ramsey spent his previous public service career as a Rescue Chief, Firefighter, Paramedic and a security officer in Afghanistan. For the past two years he’s been a Univeristy Park Police Officer. But I digress.
Officer Ramsey brought up raising girls in today’s Park Cities’ environment. He gave excellent advice, some harrowing examples of what can go wrong, and shared titles of three books he strongly recommended we read to help us navigate today’s girl world. His advice was geared towards girls but a lot of it applies to boys too. Here are a few tips:
1. Monitor your child’s social media accounts. Facebook and Twitter have brought bullying to an entire new level. Don’t just concern yourself with what your child is saying, find out what other kids say about your child. Several Twitter accounts were set up by HPHS girls with one objective: spread salacious gossip about people (girls). They solicited gossip and printed whatever garbage was given to them. True or not, didn’t matter. Please don’t let your child contribute to that kind of bullying, and help them avoid being a victim of it.
2. Dads must spend time with daughters. Girls want to be validated, respected, accepted and admired. By men. Dads need to show their daughters that they are worthy of being treated well and respected. Guess where they look for it if Dads don’t give it? Everywhere. Officer Ramsey stressed this point several times: Dads must spend time with their daughters. How Dads treat daughters is how girls will expect to be treated by boys. Think about that.
3. Drugs happen. In case you haven’t heard, drugs are all over HPHS and, frankly, all over. They’re widely available and kids, mostly boys, says Officer Ramsey, are doing them. Be very specific with your child about why she shouldn’t partake and what the consequences will be if she does. Oh, and if you happen to know the names of any known drug dealers, please let Officer Ramsey know. He’d enjoy meeting them.
4. Stuff might happen. Officer Ramsey started talking about s-e-x and thus began some seat squirming. Truth is, sex happens. We were all teens once and we know that boys are bundles of raging hormones with only one thing on their minds. So what do you tell your daughter? Well, if you don’t want her to be sexually active then tell her so and then tell her specifically what things boys might want to “accomplish” with them. I know, sounds weird but it makes perfect sense. He suggested specifics like, “A boy might want to stick his hand in your shirt or pants,” rather than “stuff might happen, be careful.” You’re not equipping your child with the right information of you don’t tell them exactly what “stuff” is. (Ok, I laughed at this one too.)
5. Practice your “I’m not horrified, really.” look in the mirror. Trust is vital in a relationship, especially with your teen. Your daughter will not confide in you (and will probably not be honest with you) if you have a bad reaction to somethign she says or does. If she finds herself in a dangerous situation, over her head or in trouble, she needs to trust that you will help her – no matter what time of day or night. Officer Ramsey isn’t suggesting that you let her off the hook, no questions asked. But if she reaches out to you and you recoil in horror – hurting her feelings or scaring her off, then she probably won’t come to you again. Be there for her, teach her, love her, support her, help her.
The three books Officer Ramsey recommend to help guide you and her are below. I’ll be honest, I’m an avid reader of parenting books, Psychology Today, self-help books and any information that can give me insight and tools to live a good life and be a good person. I believe there’s a lot of good information out there that can help us – doesn’t mean you should take these books word-for-word literally but use them as tools as you see fit.
I am so grateful I heard Officer Ramsey speak and more glad that he’s working in the high school as a resource for students and parents. This parenting gig isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy to be a teenager in the 80s, but as Officer Ramsey said last night, it’s about 100 times harder now.