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Top Ten Ways to Engage with your Nerdy Child

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Understanding your kids can be tough. Particularly if they have very different interests then you do. Fandoms can seem weird and perhaps even a bit scary to a person who is unfamiliar. They are also a lot of fun! For some of us these nerdy years will be the foundation of who we will become. I think my parents would have loved a list of ways to engage with me, probably still would. So here are ten ways that you can engage with your nerdy child.

1. Listen.

I know it can be difficult, particularly if you have no idea what they are talking about. However just sitting down to listen to them talk will not only keep your child’s trust but will also give them a confidence boost. It makes them feel important. It will also give good memories associated with both you and the interests that they are cultivating. Who knows you might end up loving it too.

2. Check out your local Library.

Yes I know that I have a bias for this as I have run many events for children in different fandoms and activities. So take this one from personal experience that these events can be really great. They are usually free. They give your child a safe space to interact with others about what they love. So please go check out your local Library and see what they have going on.  Also the staff who are running the event are having just as much fun as the kids. As proof here is a picture of myself and Iris the Keyblade Master at an event we were working.

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ThiaTheBard and IrisTheKeybladeMaster

3. The internet can be your friend.

You can and should research what your child is into. Not only will it help you talk to them about it but it gives you resources that you can look into on your own time.

4. Go to your local shops, comic or gaming.

There is a lot of good that can come from this suggestion. These shops are one more space for you and your child to experience what they love. The employees can also help you to learn more about what your child is into. How you can support them and can also help support you. Also, you being a patron of these places helps them to stay open and provide these services for others. It is a great, grand nerdy circle of life!

5. Get together with other parents to learn from each other and support each other.

As mentioned above you also need support. You can all learn from each other. Vent to each other. Just try to figure out what is happening together. Being confused in a group is always better than being confused alone.

6. Encourage your child.

Particularly if they are doing art, cosplay or writing. It can be difficult when just starting out. You are a person they can look to for guidance and a little boost.

7. Help them with goals related to their interests.

Anything from cosplay, making models or word count. It can be really tough for children to break up their path to success. Sometimes they may need a hand in figuring out how to best navigate the steps to their goals. What may seem insurmountable to them but something you can break down to make it a little more manageable.

8. Help them get to safe spaces they can make friends who actually share their interests.

Sometimes just giving them a ride can be a huge help.

9. Try their interests.

Ask them to help teach you to draw, sew, design, game, watch the movie or read the book. Not only will this help you learn it shows them that you care. Also, you may really like it.

10. Remember something you loved.

Remember what you needed and try to give it to them. Talk to your child about it. Let them know you have cool interests too.

I hope that this might have helped a little. Mostly just remember to show love. Love will always be the best way to have your child’s back and give them a little advantage in this world. If you have any other tips leave them in a comments below! 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Parenting in a Gaming and Technological World

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Before we jump down this rabbit hole I’d like you to say a word in your head.  It’s a simple word, but not always an easy one, especially when it comes to our kids.  Just say it with me, “No.”

When I grew up, my parents weren’t gamers, though they did play some video games with us kids.  They found a few games they liked, but overall it wasn’t their primary hobby.  I’ve been a parent for almost eighteen years now, and have been a gamer much longer.  My son’s been a gamer since he was old enough to hold a controller.  Despite the difference between my hobbies, and my parents’, there’s one commonality, we parent.  There are different challenges I’m sure, but I’ve always been a gamer so I can only imagine what it was like for my folks, before the internet, before PC gaming, and before cable was really a household staple.  Now we have a plethora of digital media that kids can access literally at their fingertips, but despite it all we still parent.  Say it with me, “No.”

I’m reminded of a conversation I had on Twitter, with an anti-porn advocate that thinks porn should be banned…on the internet…good luck, buddy.  Anyway, this guy was going on about how kids can access porn all the time; smart phones, tablets, laptops, just porn all the time.  But I mentioned that parents have a responsibility to make sure their children understand what’s acceptable, to explain sex and porn, and to monitor their habits.  To this guy, that wasn’t enough, but why not?  Are parents powerless to monitor their child’s online habits?  Of course now you’re saying, “Hey, the title says Gaming!”.  Yes, I’m getting there, but honestly to me the challenges here are the same, as are the responsibilities.  You know the word you should be saying, say it again, “No.”

Children cannot get a cell phone, computer, laptop, tablet, or gaming console without a parent to give them money, sign contracts, and give permission.  Of course once they have these, getting access to websites, games, chat rooms, and social media is easier, but we parents still have tools like parental controls, and our own eyes.  We have to take a bit of responsibility upon ourselves to look at ratings, chat logs, browser history, and take the time to be involved.  Talk to our kids about what’s going on, see what they’re doing from time to time, and even when they get upset that we’re ‘invading their privacy’ we have to remind them that as parents, that’s our job.  It sucks sometimes, but it’s what we do.  Say it again, Sam. “No.”

As an example, my son didn’t get a cell phone until just recently and he’ll be eighteen this year.  I didn’t need one as a kid, he didn’t need one either.  As soon as he got old enough to be going places on his own, and soon start looking for work, then we got him one.  The same sort of responsibility goes into monitoring gaming habits.  He doesn’t buy a game without asking, and he didn’t get Grand Theft Auto, no matter how many times he asked, until I thought he was old enough to play it.  I said, “No.”

That’s the hardest part for gamers, I think.  We love games, and we love when our kids love games.  Sometimes we have to be conscious of when games are acceptable for us, but not for our kids.  We look at other gamers and rarely consider things like age, we are all just gamers, but when they’re our kids we have to consider that.  I didn’t have that trouble with GTA – I don’t own it, never will, it’s just not my thing – but I can understand wanting to share a game we love with our kids.  We want to play online with them, and share our interests, so it’s easy to overlook things like ratings.  We have to be able to say it, “No.”

A lot of parents lament at the options available to kids, but we have to be the gatekeepers for all of that content.  I imagine it’s more difficult than it was for our parents, but we don’t really know any different, we weren’t parents then.  It’s the world we live in, and we have to try to balance our own love for gaming, and the culture around it, with raising our kids in that world.  Help them understand the difference between the online world and the real one.  Teach them how to interact with people face to face, as well as the value of dealing with people online like they’re other people.  Explain how there are ugly places in the world, dark ideas, uncomfortable themes in games, all that exist for a reason and why they are ugly, dark, and uncomfortable.  Most of all we need to say…you guessed it, “No.”

It doesn’t have to be all negative though.  There are tons of games out there to play with your kids, and ways to parent through gaming.  Learning games, puzzle games, adventure games that you can co-op with them.  Spend time with them and share your love of the hobby.  Incorporate family time into fun party games, racing games and sports games.  It’s a great way to have time with your family and share something we all love.  This is the greatest part of being a parent in a gaming world, but we always have a responsibility, and we have to be able to say, “No.”