It is hard to avoid the celebrity antics of Charlie Sheen, Christina Aguilera and Lindsay Lohan. Social media networks and the evening news are featuring their public battles with addiction and mental illness. For example, two of Sheen’s television interviews have scored the highest ratings so far in 2011 for the networks.
Everyone, even our kids, seem to be glued to these potential train wrecks. According to Rob Frankel, who wrote ʺThe Revenge of Brand Xʺ, today’s generation is more tuned into the media because an abundance of media outlets are available to them. Unfortunately, kids are observing the negative celebrity behaviors at a time when they are still developing their own values.
However, celebrity misconduct is a teachable moment for your kids.
Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, JD, marriage and family therapist of the Caron Treatment Centers, suggested parents should not avoid the topic. Parents can use this opportunity to be proactive and discuss addiction and mental illness with your children. Hokemeyer also suggested these five tips when talking to your children:
• Make it a teachable moment. Starting from a young age, it’s important to have regular and open communication with your kids about the dangers and consequences of drug/alcohol abuse. Use celebrities’ public battles with addiction as opportunities to educate them on the ability for substance abuse and underage drinking to dramatically impact one’s future and personal relationships.
• Don’t forbid, engage together. We don’t recommend prohibiting your children from most media (unless it’s a highly age inappropriate TV show or movie). Use media coverage, like a celebrity’s personal struggle, as an opportunity to engage in conversation. Sit down and watch the news together and discuss the coverage afterward.
• Be curious, not judgmental. Approach the conversation from a position of curiosity. Your kids will quickly form their own opinion on a piece of news or gossip. Find out their opinions. For example, start the conversation by saying, “I just saw the interview on television. Many people are saying he needs professional help. What do you think?”