Clinical psychologist, Alicia Hoyte described Caribbean parents as “super strict” with an “it’s-my-way-or-the-highway” attitude.
Hoyte is appealing to parents to take a deep breath, calm down and move from feeling and reacting emotionally to thinking clearly and rationally as the popular adage used by parents, “Not in my house”, does not help.
“What do I really want to lay down firm rules and laws about? How can I express the values of our home? So, we have to make room and at the same time, keep some boundaries. And that’s a dance for parents,” Hoyte explained during the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission’s (AFLC) Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) series, Episode 6.
The September 7 episode centred on 11–14-year-olds identifying their sexual feelings, managing them, and their friendships.
Hoyte advised parents that when these conversations arise, breathe “because sometimes we hyperventilate” with “not me, not my house, not my child.” She shared her daughter’s perspective that strict parents lead to sneaky children “and that has never left me.”
“And so, I have to make space where we can have conversations, but I set the limit according to the value system of my home. And if in my household tattoos on a young child is something I’m not about…I need to express that,” Hoyte said.
It’s not all permanent
At the onset of the discussion, Episcopal Delegate for the AFLC and series host, Tricia Syms shared some imagery from James Brunt, an English artist who uses everyday natural objects to create temporary masterpieces.
Commenting on Brunt’s work, Syms shared the images really impacted her. She explained, “And parents, sometimes we don’t know what we should be doing but what we do know is that there’s a work of art before us in our children and what we do with it, despite what the circumstances are in our lives, we know that God will bless it.”
Syms said that Brunt’s art reminded her that when God created us, He thought that we were good and beautiful and “our children are good and beautiful, too.”
“Things will happen in life that will cause the leaves to blow away, the sea to come and break down the lovely [sea] shells and so on…but God is with us. And that is what I want us to remember as first educators and parents, that God is with us in the midst of the beauty and all the brokenness we go through.”
Sharing similar sentiments, Hoyte referred to expressions she shares with parents of children of adolescent age: “Just hold on, don’t lose patience, don’t lose hope. It’s not all permanent,” she said.
Referring to the art shown, she opined the art blends the same suggestion: you work diligently, you do the best you can to create beauty in them and with them. Some of it might fall away; some of it may remain.
Give them room
In discussing how to go about initiating basic sex discussions among the 11–14-year age group, Hoyte reminded parents that their role is to guide the process of their child/ren to discover who they are.
“So, it’s not just what my parents say I am….I am Stacy, I am Allan…And who is that? …You see the outfits change, the hair change. I always tell parents hairstyles is a safe place to experiment with identity. So, give them a little room…room that we can give our kids to wonder about what kind of person they are.”
She continued, “They can get really caught up especially with social media in identifying completely with an image or with a sexual way of being … and so we want to guide the process, not shut it down.”
Avoid the lectures
Instead, Hoyte recommends parents ask their charges questions in different ways. She reminded parents to recall when they were that age group and to think of ‘What kind of conversations would I have wanted with my family?’.
“And so, they can look at their interactions and consciously choose rather than simply fall in with a crowd or feel like they have to sneak behind you because you have laid down the law book on what they must and mustn’t do,” Hoyte said.
Every experience your child is having is an opportunity to help him/her define how they want to be known, seen, or remembered, Hoyte emphasised.
Managing sexual feelings
According to Hoyte, crushes are developmentally important and are critical to one’s identity.
“What we do in our culture is we hammer down on the books and the academics and the other things don’t disappear. They just go underground and they’re learning from their friends and social media rather than from you and they’re getting it wrong,” she said.
She asserted parents ought to teach this 11-14 age group sexuality as being the whole person, a purpose, and a gift to the opposite sex.
“When you develop that interest or curiosity or attraction to somebody…be interested in the whole person, not just because she cute or he look nice…we get caught up in the physical and the genital expression of sexuality, but we are called to be interested in the whole person as well,” Hoyte said.
-By Kaelanne Jordan