Never before has it been so important to stay connected to our kids. With busy work schedules and kids extracurricular activities, it is easy for families to be moving together but without making any connection.
Kids who feel disconnected from their families have always been at greater risk of being recruited into gangs and following a path in life that doesn’t best serve them or the community. Social media and religious extremists have taken that risk to a whole other level.
Earlier this month 60 minutes did a segment on “homegrown Jihadists” called “Campaigning for ISIS in the West.” Using social media, ISIS is recruiting youth in the west through their bedroom computers. Using online video sharing, twitter and other social media they are actively recruiting those youth who are craving connection, purpose and a place to belong.
It’s not enough these days that your kids are at home. That doesn’t translate to being safe from the effects of those seeking kids who want to feel they belong. Your home computer is an open door to everything our world has to offer. Our access to information, knowledge and connection with others has never been greater but be aware of who your kids are communicating with on social media, what videos are they watching, who are the connecting with. We cannot afford to make assumptions and need to get involved in their lives.
The stakes are higher than ever before. Kids who join gangs here at home are at high risk for committing violent crimes and also falling victim to violent crimes. With groups like ISIS the risks are at a different level. We are talking full out warfare, fighting for a community of extremists who believe that democracy should end and who “want to see every single woman in this country covered from head to toe…want to see the hand of a thief cut, to see adulterers stones to death.” There are people who want to bring down our society as we know it and want to convince your kids to die fighting with them.
Ideally, our deep connections and understanding of love start at birth, and we keep them. This is why a normal, physiological birth without unnecessary interventions is so important. Unfortunately, many mother-baby dyads don’t get that deep connection because of how we interfere (via IV, epidural, artificial oxytocin, and cesarean birth) with the natural release of our bonding hormone, oxytocin, in birth. Most families are starting out less connected than they could be and this disconnect can last a lifetime unless you make a conscious choice to connect now.
There are things you can do to create deeper connection, even if things started out rough. Spending time together, skin to skin, in loving embrace, soft touches, long eye contact, and breastfeeding all increase oxytocin and strengthen bonds and feelings of love.
In our society, with families needing two incomes and kids spending more time with peers than with parents, kids are becoming more and more peer-oriented. With peer-orientation kids look to their peers as models instead of their parents. They look to their peers for feelings of love, connection, and belonging. Hold on to Your Kids is an excellent book by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Mate that explains to why parents need to matter more than peers. Peers can be an important parts of a youth’s life without them being the central focus of satisfying emotional needs.
It is never too late to start fostering more parent-oriented children, to create new connection and bond more deeply than before. A must read book is Connection Parenting by Pam Leo. This is probably the single most important parenting book I have ever read. Reminding us that we can always start to be more connected than we were before, to let go of what was done and be better today, and how we are the most important model for how children expect others to treat them and how they will treat others. We can protect our children from those who want to use and abuse them for their own agenda by raising confident, loving, and connected children. Treating our kids with love and dignity will teach them to treat others with the same level of care and respect that they were treated with.
The biggest impact we will have in the world is raising connected and conscious children. We need our kids to know that with family comes belonging, community, love, dignity, respect, and purpose. When these basic needs go unfulfilled gangs and extremist play on these needs to draw children in. The stakes have never been higher with groups like ISIS reaching out to your kids, even in the safety of your own home. We need to strengthen our connections now so our kids will know a world of peace and love!