So many of the stars our kids and teens look up to are letting them down. Michael Phelps was photographed smoking marijuana from a bong for the world to see. Miley Cyrus offended Asians everywhere with her thoughtless photo. And now Chris Brown has allegedly beat the crap out of Rihanna. How do we as parents deal?
Celebrities are our kids' role models.
Sure, we'd rather them look up to scientists, doctors, do-gooders ... but the fact is that movie stars and rappers are the ones who capture their attention, like it or not.
But when these stars do things that are questionable, it's not always easy to explain.
Psychotherapist Rebecca Grado, MFT, co-founder of the Mother-Daughter Empowerment Summit, and a mother of a teen herself, says, "For kids these days, it's so easy to lose their way because they focus so much on things like celebrity, money, fame, and success that they can forget what's really important and who they really are," she says. "They put these stars on such a pedestal. I'm just quick to remind my 16-year-old that role models are just human beings who make mistakes, too."
When Rebecca heard about Chris Brown allegedly assaulting girlfriend Rihanna, she saw it as a teachable moment. "When we heard about it on TV about how Chris and his own mother had been abused at the hands of his stepfather, my teen daughter and I had a brief conversation about how abuse can perpetuate itself," she says. "People can have all the opportunities in the world, but if they don't have the consciousness and awareness, they can destroy it all. Chris Brown is a beautiful boy who had every chance in life, but his past got the best of him. That's something you can discuss with your teen."
It's also a good time to discuss teen dating violence -- and how this is never okay, under any circumstances.
No matter how strongly you feel about this situation, Rebecca does not recommend banning Chris Brown CDs from the home. "I feel like the minute you take something away, they're going to want it all the more," she says.
"When the Michael Phelps photos surfaced of him smoking pot, I also used this as an opportunity to talk to my daughter about accountability," says Rebecca. "I see Michael Phelps as a hero who made a mistake. I give him so much credit for owning up to what he did. The first thing he said was, 'I'm sorry. I blew it. I am going to face the consequences.' He is certainly going to pay the price through endorsements. With my daughter, I wanted to focus on the fact that he was accountable in his life. We all make mistakes -- but instead of hiding or denying that he did it, he was honest and accountable, and that shows character."
"I almost feel compassion for this 16-year-old girl, because of the pressure, the scrutiny, and the spotlight she's under," says Rebecca. "It must be tough to be built up that much. Yes, she has talent -- but what is she REALLY doing to be afforded so many accolades? Isn't that a lot of pressure to be put under? In this particular situation, however, she was pretty insensitive and she just really wasn't thinking. She got busted for it, and it wasn't a smart move. I felt like her apology was not really heartfelt -- more like a statement issued by her publicist to make it all to go away. I used this situation as an opportunity to talk to my daughter about how insensitivity is not cool any day of the week -- I don't care who you are."
How do you explain to your kids when their role models let them down?