The emotional wreckage from the Steubenville rape case will continue – for those at the epicenter, directly involved in the tragedy, and radiating outward, for all of us shocked and saddened by the behavior and the damage done by and to the children on both sides of this terrible story. As parents, we wonder, “Could this happen in our town?” “Could this happen to our kids?” The answer, unfortunately, is yes. We’d love to believe that we and our kids would always choose the right action, but there is often an eyelash-thin boundary that can separates the right decision from the wrong. In this case several wrong actions combined exponentially, fueled by drug-impaired judgment, poorly internalized standards of appropriate behavior, and the seemingly-irresistible “send” button on kids’ cellphones.
From the rubble, there are some important take-aways, opportunities to open some necessary-but-uncomfortable conversations with our kids. James Wellborn, a Tennessee psychologist, has written a careful, compassionate article, “How To Talk To Your Kids About Steubenville.” With calm empathy for both sides, he has clarified the important ethical bedrock values we must communicate to our children – early and often. He talks plainly about the realities and risks of sex, alcohol, and drugs, and their volatile combination. He focuses on the principles and concepts of consent, dignity, respect, responsibility, courage, safety, cruelty, and humiliation as humor. Please read this, leave a copy for your kids to read, and talk to them about it.
photo credit: istockphoto.com