Episode 64: Using critical conversation to empower and protect children online with WhiteRibbonWeek.org founder Deanna Lambson

There has never been a time when media literacy is more important than in today’s media-saturated world. One way of being alert and vigilant is preparing and protecting homes and children from the aggressive assault of pornography through establishing a pattern of open conversations.

This episode of the Church News podcast features Deanna Lambson, a Latter-day Saint educator and founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org. She discusses a gospel-centered approach to starting age-appropriate conversations about digital citizenship and internet safety and tackling less-comfortable subjects. Lambson also offers a road map for becoming trusted adults who facilitate conversations and listen with love and attention.

This podcast continues the previous Church News podcast conversation with Dr. Jill Manning, a licensed marriage and family therapist who offered 5 action points or characteristics for protecting families from pornography. 

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Transcript

Deanna Lambson: When we are working with children, we tell them if anything ever happens to them that doesn’t seem right or doesn’t seem safe, whether it’s on TV or on the internet, or even in their classroom or whatever — you want them to tell a trusted adult. Well, sometimes we have to stop and say, “If someone were to ask my kids who is their trusted adult, would they choose me?” Of course, we all want to be that trusted person, but we really have to earn that place. It doesn’t automatically happen because you’re a parent or a grandparent. You earn it through many safe, supportive conversations.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News and welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: We live in a world saturated by media and it is our responsibility to be media-savvy citizens. An important part of this is preparing and protecting our homes and children from the aggressive assault of pornography. Today on the Church News podcast, we are joined by Sister Deanna Lambson, a Latter-day Saint educator and founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org. We plan to discuss a gospel-centered approach to starting age-appropriate conversations in our homes. Deanna, welcome to the Church News podcast. I’m so excited to talk to you about the power of conversations.

Deanna Lambson: Thank you, Sarah, I’m delighted to be here.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And before we start, I should probably give a disclaimer here. Deanna is my longtime friend, and we have actually worked together with some media literacy efforts in elementary schools in our neighborhoods and communities.

2:01  

Deanna Lambson: And what a delight to work together. You have such a passion for protecting kids, and so do many of our listeners. So we’re excited to talk about this.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Deanna, let’s start today and have you tell us just a little bit about yourself, and how did you come to a place in your life where you actually are talking about preventing pornography addiction, and where you’re talking about helping protect children?

2:25  

Deanna Lambson: Thank you, Sarah. Well, I think every one of us, over time, has an experience where someone has gone through some pain because of pornography. And really, that’s what started it for me, someone that I loved was struggling, and I’m a mother of five boys and one girl, and I remember having a conversation with someone where I asked them if they were worried about their kids getting involved in pornography. And they said, “I guess I haven’t really thought about it, I hope that won’t be a problem.” And I remember being a little bit surprised by that response and thinking, “Hoping that they won’t get into it is not enough. Hoping is not enough.” I need to be more proactive. 

And so I remember that I began just learning about it, and wanting to have some of those conversations with my kids and really not knowing what to say. And at the same time, in our local elementary school, they had a sign up for anyone who wanted to help with an Internet Safety Week, and we hadn’t even had anything like that. It was in the early days of the internet actually. And I thought, “You know what? I want to learn about this.” So I signed up to help on the committee. And lo and behold, no one else signed up with me. And Sarah, you’ll remember that that’s where we actually got to be good friends, because we worked on that together that very year. And from that point on, it has just grown into, really, a not only an interest but a passion and I believe a calling. And I believe that it needs to be all of our callings to care about this and to just proactively move towards healthy media use.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well and in your work with White Ribbon Week, can you kind of give us an overview of what some of the most important issues are that are facing our kids?

4:16  

Deanna Lambson: Well, there’s an awful lot and there are more every day. New apps, new websites, and there’s really no way you can put all of them into one basket, but I think there are some general challenges. Of course, pornography is a challenge, online pornography, cyber bullying, sextortion, sexting. A lot of the messages that we get from the media cause some problems: Distorted body image, deceptive media, dangerous media, violent media. And so the challenge that we had with White Ribbon Week and as an elementary school teacher and a mother myself, we wanted to take some of these really serious issues and find a way to translate them into simple, positive principles that even a kindergartner could understand, so that we are preventative instead of trying to run after the car — preventative in helping kids develop some skills early, early, long before —  hopefully — they’re hit with this tidal wave of issues that comes along when they get online.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And often you have taught kids a rule, you call it the “10 Minute Rule.” And I think that will guide some of our conversations throughout this podcast, so why don’t you tell us what that stands for, and why you have kids follow this rule?

5:35  

Deanna Lambson: You know, I will say this has probably been one of the most helpful tools for my own family, and I honestly don’t know where I got it. I think I heard it from another wise family who had adopted this as their tool. But the “10-Minute Rule” basically says that if you see something online, that you see pornography online or something that doesn’t seem right or decent, that you tell someone within 10 minutes. Now, of course, there’s nothing magical about 10 minutes. You could have it be the “Five-Minute Rule” or the “Two-Minute Rule.” But the point is, you don’t wait until next week, or until next year. 

Deanna Lambson, a Latter-day Saint educator and founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org, shares how children need to have a safe place to talk things through and to decide a course of action.
Deanna Lambson, a Latter-day Saint educator and founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org, shares how children need to have a safe place to talk things through and to decide a course of action. Credit: junce11 – stock.adobe.com

What Satan would love is for us to just put it off long enough so that we never really tell someone, because we know that secrecy is the lifeblood of addiction. And so the sooner you can tell someone, you release it, you release that worry about it. A lot of times, the worry keeps it rolling over in your mind over and over again. But being able to tell it to someone helps you be resilient to that. So it’s a really powerful little tool, the “10 Minute Rule.” Whenever you see something, say something. And it’s interesting, because the “10 Minute Rule” looks like this: It might be a text that you get from a son while he’s playing at a friend’s house. It might be a phone call, you know, when you’re working late, it might be someone yelling from the other room saying, “Hey, Mom, I saw something,” you say, “Oh, great, you remembered the 10-Minute Rule.” 

I remember one time, I think we were doing online shopping, my daughter and I were on the computer together. And in the process of that, an image came up of someone not wearing very much, And we both turned to each other and said, “Hey, I just saw something online.” And we began to laugh. And it’s interesting how recognizing that these things happen to us, it removes that shame. It removes that feeling of, “I’m such a terrible person, I saw this,” because you know what? We’re all gonna see things like that. We live in a world where it’s all around us, it’s like being in a smoke-filled room and not breathing any smoke. We’re going to see things sometimes. But if we can help our kids to be open about it, then it has much less power. I almost feel like Satan is saying, “Rats,” every time we share with each other, because he has lost that opportunity to build it into something bigger than it needed to be.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and all of us have accidental exposure to things that make us feel uncomfortable, to things we don’t want to see. This also prevents intentional exposure, because someone might know that there could be a conversation after the fact, and then it helps in other ways: With cyberbullying, with threats against other kids at school, anything that someone might see, right? That anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

8:22  

Deanna Lambson: Absolutely. Anything that doesn’t feel right. And I will tell you that I have six children and my younger two children were raised on the “10-Minute Rule.” And it has been such a blessing in our family. A lot of people will tell you, “Oh, that’ll never work, right? You’re not going to get your 17-year-old telling you.” But I will tell you from my personal experience that it does work, because what happens is, as they, as young children, feel safe sharing with you, they learn how you’re going to respond to them. They feel safe talking to you about lots of things. And when they’re 17 and 18, they feel like they can talk to you about anything.

Read more: What 5 characteristics of pornography addiction teach about prevention

Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. Well, that leads us right into the next question on how we can have good healthy conversations with our kids.

9:09  

Deanna Lambson: You know, I think, Sarah, that that’s probably the No. 1 most important thing we can do in protecting our kids, and I know there’s a lot of threats out there. There’s a lot of threats on the playground, in the classroom with their friends, and especially online, and we can’t possibly anticipate all the things that are going to come up, and so we’re in a new situation of digital parenting and trying to prepare them for whatever they might see, might come across, might have to encounter. There’s no way we can know what all those issues might be, so our kids need to process it. They need to have a safe place to talk it through, to decide a course of action. And actually, I believe that having conversations with our kids helps them to identify the Spirit. It helps them to feel a direction, to go in a safe place with someone who’s supportive.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And you’ve said before, having conversations with our kids is less about talking and more about listening.

10:09  

Deanna Lambson: Absolutely, and that’s the hard part, because you and I can talk all day, right? We can talk, talk, talk. But what we really need to do is just help them to talk. Have you ever noticed that when you try to remember what was taught in Relief Society last week, I always remember the comment that I made. Does that make sense? I think it’s because when we share with someone else, it’s a little a-ha moment for ourselves. And so when our kids share with us, it’s that moment for them to really have that “a-ha” moment, to make a decision. And really, this is not about us telling them what to do. It’s about empowering them to feel confident making decisions as they navigate life, both online and offline. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I’m a verbal processor. So oftentimes, I form conclusions or come to an understanding as I’m talking.

11:01  

Deanna Lambson: Oh, absolutely. I think that happens all the time. And you know, I have a son who said something to me recently that I thought was so profound. We had been visiting about a problem that he was dealing with. And he said, “Mom, thanks for talking with me.” He said, “If I can verbalize it, I can handle it. If I can verbalize it, I can deal with it.” And I really believe that. There’s Jeff Ford, a therapist that is fantastic, and deals with a lot of issues, addiction issues and things like that. He said, “Pornography has very little effect on a teenager who has a safe place to talk about it.” There’s also another 2017 study that indicates that kids that have a strong attachment with their parents are much less likely to get involved in problematic behavior on the internet. 

So just the fact of having that close relationship of being able to talk with a parent is really one of the strongest indicators about how they’re going to behave online, and not only that, but they do better in every way. They get better grades, they have fewer discipline problems, they actually even live longer. So, you know, there’s so many reasons to talk. I want to share one thing that I learned recently that I think is fascinating, and it’s an MRI study that is called “putting feelings into words,” and what it shows is that if someone can verbalize something, it moves the active part of the brain. Instead of being in the amygdala, which is the reaction, the fight or flight area of the brain, it moves it to the frontal lobe. Now, what that means is that instead of overreacting or doing something impulsively, if a child is able to talk about it, they’re able to move it to the frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain that helps them reason, and to organize and to plan and to be controlled. So, isn’t that cool? Just the fact that they were able to talk about it. I think it’s important to remember that as parents, sometimes we don’t know how to fix it, and so we might be a little bit reluctant to talk about some things. But it’s really freeing to me to learn that I don’t have to fix it, that just allowing them to talk to me about it is going to help them.

Deanna Lambson, a Latter-day Saint educator and founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org, shares how children need to have a safe place to talk things through and to decide a course of action.
Deanna Lambson, a Latter-day Saint educator and founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org, shares how children need to have a safe place to talk things through and to decide a course of action. Credit: Seventyfour – stock.adobe.com

Sarah Jane Weaver: And you know, we covered a few years ago in the Church News, a study out of Harvard that said if you really want your kids to excel, have family dinner, have family conversations, put them around a table on a regular basis, so that everyone is used to very, very open dialogue.

13:32  

Deanna Lambson: You know, and that’s actually one way that you can help kids who maybe are a little bit more reluctant to talk, is to just have comfortable, simple little conversations. You don’t think about the fact that talking to them about their artwork is going to help you talk about bigger, more difficult issues, but it does. So, anytime where you can have a conversation as they’re getting dressed for school, sitting on their bed late at night and chatting about their day, or saying, “Hey, do you want to go to the gas station and get a drink?” Or something like that, where you just have time to talk, and you just ask them questions, just ask them questions. I think that’s probably one of the best ways to get kids to feel open is to keep asking questions. So, instead of thinking that our role is to talk and to teach, our role is to open the door for them to talk.

Sarah Jane Weaver: That is such an important thing at our house. We have three daughters, and sometimes it’s my husband that’s the reluctant talker. But what you’re saying is sometimes conversations don’t come naturally. It’s something we have to work at.

14:36  

Deanna Lambson: Absolutely, and I think you just start small, and some of your children or grandchildren are going to be much more open and just anxious to share everything, and others are going to be more reserved. And I think one of the ways that you help open that door is by sharing with them. Share stories about your life, your experiences, and then turn and ask them, “Has that ever happened to you?” Or, “How do you feel about that?” Or, “What do you notice that your friends might struggle with?” And I think it’s really important to, as you’re asking questions, you don’t ever want them to think there’s a certain answer you’re looking for. When you ask questions, think of just really being curious about how they feel, and however they feel is the right answer.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and is there anything that we inadvertently do that kind of keeps our kids from sharing things with us?

15:25  

Deanna Lambson: We probably all do that, on occasion, whenever we, perhaps, overreact or blame, or shame, or yell, or kind of respond in a harsh way. Our child is probably not saying, “Gee, this seems to upset Mom, I probably should change my behavior.” Instead, they’re probably saying, “You know what? I’m not going to share this again. Mom and Dad just don’t understand. They don’t get me. They don’t understand me.” And so I think the best thing we can do to help them feel safe talking to us is to respond with patience, understanding. It’s all the things that we learn about in the gospel, right? Patience and love unfeigned. 

But I think when you’re having a conversation, especially if it’s something that’s maybe a little bit difficult, or something that you maybe don’t want to hear, step back a little bit, and instead of rushing to judgment, just think about curiosity and think about caring. I remember one time when my son was on the treadmill — and he was just 3 years old at the time — and I told him, “That’s not a toy, get off the treadmill.” And of course, you know, he was still playing on the treadmill and he was pushing buttons, and I was doing something else and not noticing what he was doing. And the treadmill began going faster and faster, and he fell. And it, of course, pushed him off the end of the treadmill, but it was close to the wall, and he was trapped, and his hand got caught underneath the treadmill. 

And as soon as I realized what had happened, it was awful. It literally took the skin off of his hand, this little 2-year-old, and the first thing I did, because you’re scared, you’re nervous, it’s a panic moment, I yelled at him: “What are you doing? I told you, don’t play on the treadmill, “right? And then I looked at his little hand and I thought, “Oh, my goodness, he doesn’t need me to yell at him. He needs me to hold him. He needs me to love him. He needs healing.” 

So that experience was really helpful to me in those moments, and sometimes you have that reaction, especially if someone’s telling you something difficult, whether it’s just that they crashed into your neighbor’s car, or that they’ve seen pornography on the internet, you have that reaction inside where you kind of are angry, you’re hurt, or you want to say something harsh, but that’s not what they need. What they need is love. 

So when we are working with children, we often tell children — and you may have heard this phrase — we tell them to tell a trusted adult, right? If anything ever happens to them, that doesn’t seem right or doesn’t seem safe, whether it’s on TV or on the Internet, or even in their classroom or whatever. You want them to tell a trusted adult. Well, sometimes we have to stop and say, “If someone were to ask my kids who is their trusted adult, would they say that it’s me? Would they choose me?” Of course, we all want to be that trusted person, but we really have to earn that place. It doesn’t automatically happen because you’re a parent or a grandparent. You earn it through many safe, supportive conversations. So, I think every time a child shares something with you is really an opportunity to earn that trust with them. 

I’ll tell you something that I often do. It’s a little secret that I do with my kids when they’re young, and I generally ask them something that I know they will think is a big secret, like, “I really like this particular boy at school.” Maybe they’re just in second grade, whatever you think is their secret, you know, and I say, “You know, is there a boy that you really like at school?” Or to my sons, “Is there a girl that you think is really cute?” And at first, they’re reluctant to tell me, and I say to them, “You know, you can trust Mom. If you share something with me, I don’t share it with anybody else.” And I remind them over and over and over that they can trust me, and then I really live up to that. So I like the fact that every one of my kids will eventually trust me and they’ll say, “Well, I kind of like this girl.” And then I really honor that trust, never betray that trust. You just hold on to it, it doesn’t matter even if you think it’s silly, it’s a 5-year-old, it doesn’t matter. If it matters to them, then it matters to me. And it’s interesting that as my children have gotten older, every opportunity they share something with me is equally important. A difficulty that they’re having at work, or a struggle that they’re having in a relationship, or something they’re worried about at school, I really trust that, I don’t treat it lightly. So, I think that’s something we can do to earn that trust. I also think we have to be calm and compassionate in how we respond, recognize that they’re sorting through things. I don’t have to fix it for them. Just allow them to talk about it.

Building a relationship with children who are sometimes reluctant to talk is to have is to just have comfortable, simple little conversations, says Deanna Lambson, founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org.
Building a relationship with children who are sometimes reluctant to talk is to have is to just have comfortable, simple little conversations, says Deanna Lambson, founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org. Credit: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS – stock.adobe

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, you know, that’s interesting. We had an incident where my daughter had been distracted and driven the car through some of our neighbors’ yards. And when I got to the accident scene, one of my neighbors was there, and he met me as I got out of the car, and he said two things. He said, “Slow down, and breathe.” And that advice — I have used it in other circumstances. You know, sometimes it’s good to just take one deep breath.

21:03  

Deanna Lambson: Absolutely. That’s the best advice, and actually, that calms your brain. You know how we were talking about brain science and the amygdala. Breathing is the fastest way to change your emotional state. Just taking a deep breath. 

You know, I had a phone call recently from one of my sons who’s now older, and he was sharing with me a really serious concern that he had, and he was really upset. He was really upset, and he was on speakerphone. That’s another tip: Take him off speakerphone. But he was on speakerphone with me and my husband, and as we were listening to him, he was really having a rough time sorting through how he was going to handle this problem. And I remembered thinking: OK, sometimes, you know how you have to sit on your hands so that you — I wanted to sit on my lips, like, don’t open my mouth, sit on my own lips so I can’t open them up. Just listen, just listen. And it was so interesting how his emotional state from the beginning of the call to the end of the call totally changed without me hardly having to say anything, because I allowed him to just — it’s almost like you’re helping them unload their backpack, unload their backpack of these of these things that are weighing them down, and they just need to share it with you. It was really helpful for me to see that he had the tools that he needed to solve this problem. He just needed to verbalize it. 

You know, in all of our talk about talking about conversations, there’s one little teeny quote that I just wanted to share with you, and it’s actually from one of my favorite books. It’s called “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, and it just says in there, a little part where it says, “He told his mother all about his adventures while she took off his wet socks. And he thought and thought and thought about them.” Isn’t that so great? I just love that image of, here she is pulling off his wet socks, and he told her all about his day. And the fact that he was able to share with her was what helped him process everything about his day. Isn’t that so great? What a great mom to sit there and let him talk and pull off his socks. I love that. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: I love that, too. And when we look at things like preventing pornography, or raising tech-savvy kids, it really does take a village. So being a trusted adult doesn’t just mean being a trusted mom or dad. It means being a trusted neighbor and a trusted aunt or uncle, a trusted grandma or grandpa.

23:41  

Deanna Lambson: Absolutely, and as a matter of fact, when we talk with kids at school, we try to teach them: How do you find a trusted adult? There are trusted adults around you. Not every child has a parent who is their trusted adult, but there is always an adult that can help them. And so we help the kids, and this is something you can do with your own children. Ask them to identify other trusted adults. And they may not understand what that phrase means, of trusted adults, and so you can ask them questions like, “Who is someone who loves you and cares about you? Who is someone who is patient when you talk to them? Who is someone who loves you and always wants to help you or will give you good advice?” And help them pick several names of trusted adults. 

As a matter of fact, we always make kids choose more than two because then they have to choose someone besides a parent. I will tell you that grandparents can be a really amazing resource for kids. I will tell you that my parents have been an amazing support and strength to so many of their grandchildren. They feel safe there, and they’ll share things often with grandparents or aunts or uncles that they don’t feel comfortable sharing with their parents, and so I think we all can take on that role of being a trusted adult for a child. 

You know, I’d love to share another idea that I think might be helpful for our listeners about when you’re kind of stuck, and you really don’t know how to respond, whatever it might be. Sometimes we just need a little tool in our backpack that we can pull out, that helps us know how to respond. So if you remember the word OARS — now, this is O-A-R-S, like a paddle. And I have to thank my friend Nicole Conrad, who’s a licensed clinical social worker and one of our experts that works at White Ribbon Week for this suggestion. But it’s been so helpful to me, regardless of what age you are dealing with, whether you’re speaking with a spouse, or with a coworker, or with your own children, but each of the letters of OARS stands for a different strategy that you can use in responding and helping someone feel safe talking to you. 

So the first one is to ask open-ended questions. “O” is for open-ended questions. So, for example, that might be something that can’t be answered with a yes or no, like, “What was so hard about today?” Or, “How did you feel about your meeting or your conversation with Emily?” Something that they have to answer a few more words than a yes or no. 

The second one, the “A” stands for affirmation. So affirmations are statements that highlight your child’s or this person’s strengths. So for example, if they come to you with a statement that’s a little bit hard for you to handle, or you’re not quite sure what to say, for example, if a child says, “Hey, I saw something online,” well, think about an affirmation. “I’m really proud of you that you came to talk to me, that was probably hard for you.” “I’m really grateful that you feel like you can talk to me or that you’re so open with me,” or “It was so thoughtful of you to do this for your brother,” whatever that affirmation is. 

The “R” in OARS stands for reflection. And this might sound silly on the outset, but it’s basically just reflecting back to them exactly what they just said. So if they say something to you like, “Well, I can’t believe you won’t let me have an iPhone,” then you say, “OK, so it’s hard for you to understand why I won’t give you an iPhone.” Or if they say, “I’m really tired, and I don’t feel like doing anything, and I just want to stay in bed and sleep.” So you reflect it back to them: “So you don’t feel like yourself, and you just want to sleep.” It’s amazing how just reflecting it back helps them feel that they were heard, and they will follow up with another statement. 

Okay, the last one is “S,” and that is a summary. So that is basically you listen to them and take everything that you’ve heard, and put it into a statement so that they know you’ve heard them. For example: “It sounds like you’re feeling stressed out about your schoolwork and your dance competition, and you also want to spend time with your friends, but you need to cut back, is that correct?” 

So you can see how these four ideas really give you some strategies without judgment, without shame, without blame, without criticism, it just helps keep that conversation going. So just to review: The four letters are O, A, R, S. The “O” stands for open-ended questions, the “A” for affirmation, the “R,” reflect back what you’ve heard, and the “S,” make a summary of the things that you’ve heard your child say. I should say, though, that you don’t want to do all of these at the same time, you would just choose one. Choose the “A” or the “O” or the “R,” but any one of those can be a wonderful way to respond really to any situation.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And sometimes we can do all those things, and reserve the teaching for later. Sometimes there’s moments for listening, and other times there’s moments for teaching, right?

28:52  

Deanna Lambson: Absolutely. You know, I saw a little video recently about if you’re walking across the lawn with your child, and the sprinklers turn on, right? The sprinklers turn on, and so your child is gonna go, “Oh, I’m getting sprayed,” so at that moment, you could respond by saying, “Well, you have to water the lawn or the lawn is going to die. Obviously, you didn’t, let me just explain to you how —” no, they don’t need that right then, they’re getting sprayed on, right? And so that moment is not a moment to teach. It’s just a moment to help them with the current situation, and later, when they’re not in the sprinklers, that’s the time to talk to him about it. 

You know, I learned something really valuable and that is that we often think that relationships are best built during happy times: Family vacations, Christmas, birthday dinners, things like that. But, actually, relationships are built in the times when your child is upset, and if you think back in your own past, and think about the times when you really connected with someone, a parent, a sibling, a teacher, it was very likely a time when you were going through something hard, and how that person loved and supported you. I can tell you right now, I remember a time where someone that I loved dearly broke up with me — can’t imagine why he would do that — but he did. He said, “I’m gonna date your best friend.” OK. So it was just devastating to me and I came home and I was just a wreck. I was sobbing and sobbing, and I remember my dad pulling me aside. It’s still an emotional moment to me. But he pulled me aside, and I don’t care anymore about whether or not I dated this guy. It was not the right thing. But the opportunity that this gave my dad, and he just pulled me aside, and I just remember that he held me in his arms, and he said, “I’m so sorry you’re hurting.” And he didn’t tell me that this guy was no good for me, and he didn’t tell me that I was too young to be so serious with someone anyway, he didn’t tell me any of that, which I needed to hear, but not then. I needed to hear that he cared, and I’ll tell you that my father was such an expert at that. That the relationship I have with my father who’s 96 right now is still just as close, because he has always responded with that kind of love, regardless of what crisis was going on in my life. 

But I think it’s good for us to remember that those opportunities when our child is upset, even if they’ve done something wrong, even if they need to have a change of attitude — that’s a golden opportunity to build that bond with your child. It is more of a golden opportunity than Christmas or birthday or anything else. That moment is your moment to build that connection with them.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I love that story. I have one of my own. It’s very similar. I had a disappointment in high school, was in my closet crying, my dad found me and said, “Let’s go for a ride.” We didn’t do much. I suspect there was ice cream, I don’t remember, but I do remember the feeling of getting in the car and feeling so safe. 

Building a relationship with children who are sometimes reluctant to talk is to have is to just have comfortable, simple little conversations, says Deanna Lambson, founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org.
Building a relationship with children who are sometimes reluctant to talk is to have is to just have comfortable, simple little conversations, says Deanna Lambson, founder of WhiteRibbonWeek.org. Credit: digitalskillet1 – stock.adobe.co

32:04  

Deanna Lambson: I would really hope that every child would have a safe place. How wonderful if that safe place can be with their parents? How wonderful. But no matter what, as adults, we can be that safe place for a child, accepting, loving, patient. 

Now, we probably ought to say here for some of our listeners, and for me, too, we might be listening and saying, “Oh my word, I didn’t respond that way. I’ve blown it. I’ve messed up.” And I think it’s important to know that you can always start from where you are and build a relationship with someone, and it is quicker than you think to repair a relationship with a sincere apology or a sincere effort to listen and support. And it’s OK to say to your kids, “You know what, I think maybe when we talked about this before, I may have overreacted. And I don’t want to be that way, and I’m sorry. But I hope you’ll give me another chance because I really love you, and I really want to be a safe place for you. So can you tell me about ___?” And just start small, and you’d be surprised how quickly your children will turn to you and feel safe with you.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I recently got some advice from a professional. We were going through some stuff with one of our children, and this professional said, “You can’t have influence without a relationship. So, before you start trying to have influence, first build the relationship.” Now let me just be a little transparent here because my family deals with a lot of stuff with humor, but there are times when teasing is actually not beneficial, right?

33:42  

Deanna Lambson: You know, that’s a really interesting thing, because humor can really lighten a lot of situations, and really, smiling actually makes you feel better. So, it’s not that teasing is so bad if the person you’re teasing with is also enjoying it, but I think it’s one of those cases where you have to be really sensitive to the Spirit because if you’re looking in their eyes, you can see there’s a little moment where there might be a tipping point where it’s no longer fun for them. It’s almost like when you tickle someone too much and it stops being fun, right? Once you sense that you might be approaching that you’ve got to stop. And of course, you never want to say anything, even in a teasing way, that would be critical. I love a statement that President [Thomas S.] Monson made once where he said, “Never do or say anything that would destroy another person’s confidence.” I really love that. And just to kind of be aware: Teasing is fun, but don’t ever let sarcasm or teasing take over how that person is feeling.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I’ve heard you compare keeping kids safe, teaching them to be media literate, helping them be safe online, helping them deal with accidental exposure to pornography, all of those things in a similar way, to putting a seat belt on them when you get in the car.

34:59  

Deanna Lambson: Well, it really is a way of protecting them. Talking about these things is a way of putting on that protective seat belt. You know, there are some conversations that should never be a secret, they should never be kept secret, they need to be talked about. And this is something that we like to share with parents, is to help them have that conversation with their kids saying, “You know what? There’s certain things that you always tell Mom and Dad.” In our home, we had a little game that we would play when I told my kids when they were little, “If anyone tells you they want you to keep a secret. What’s the first thing you do? Will you tell me? Because we don’t keep secrets.” And they actually had to repeat that back. “We don’t keep secrets in our family.” And by that I don’t mean birthday surprises, I don’t mean that. I mean a secret that is harmful. 

So, there’s a few things I’m going to recommend seven situations in which you always tell Mom or Dad. So the first one is, if you see something inappropriate online, or see something that makes you feel yucky. Sometimes they understand that word, makes you feel yucky, you always tell Mom or Dad. 

No. 2 is if you’re being bullied or threatened in any way, whether it’s at school or with friends, or whether it’s online, from someone you know, or someone you don’t know. 

The third situation is, if you feel super sad, or feel like hurting yourself, that’s one of those cases where you always tell Mom or Dad. 

No. 4: If you get a bad feeling about someone. You know, we can teach our children to trust the messages of the Spirit, and the Spirit often gives us warnings. As a matter of fact, the Spirit will always give us a warning about bad situations, or people that we need to stay away from. So, if our children have a bad feeling about how someone is talking to them. 

No. 5: If anyone asked them to keep a secret from their parents, that’s something we always tell Mom and Dad, no matter what they might threaten, right? 

No. 6: If they ever feel unsafe in any way, unsafe riding in someone’s car, or unsafe in someone’s home, whatever that might be.

No. 7: If someone online wants to meet them. 

I think those are some crucial situations that we can help our kids understand. We always tell Mom or Dad about those, and you may come up with other ones with your own family. But I think that’s a good start.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and you have kind of a fun way to help kids remember what they should do or how they should start conversations, when things come up that are unsettling, things that may worry them, things that may make them feel yucky or uncomfortable. Talk to us about what that is.

37:38  

Deanna Lambson: Yeah, I actually really like this because it’s such a simple little strategy that even a three year old can remember it. But I’ll tell you, even in my 50s, I use this same strategy, we call it “Tic Tac Toe,” and the reason we call it “Tic Tac Toe,” is because there are three steps you do and they all start with a “T.” So “Tic Tac Toe,” stands for, whenever you see anything or experience anything that doesn’t seem right, whatever that might be — first, you turn it off, you talk to a trusted adult, and then you turn to something active. And it’s so simple. Little kids can remember that: “Tic Tac Toe,” remember “Tic Tac Toe.” Turn it off, talk to an adult, turn to something active. If you take all the brain science around building resilience and avoiding addictions in any way and keeping kids safe, it really boils down to those three things, to stop the exposure, to share it with someone and then transfer your energies to something positive so that it doesn’t dwell on your mind.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And you know, that is so helpful. Deanna, I wish we could talk about this so much longer, but where can people go if they want more information or more details about some of the things you’ve shared with us? 

38:50  

Deanna Lambson: Oh, thank you, Sarah, I’d love to share that. If any of your listeners go to WhiteRibbonWeek.org, you’ll see that a lot of the information that we’ve talked about today come from a series of six different family conversation guides or conversation workbooks, and it really guides parents through these conversations, because a lot of times, some of these conversations are a little tricky, and parents don’t quite know how to start it. It feels awkward or it feels uncomfortable, but each one of these little, it’s almost like a little mini magazine, and it gives them an opportunity to talk, to practice, to plan and to play together. So, we can start having conversations about media and about all kinds of things, that is fun and safe and really opens that door for future conversations.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. We also would remind people that we did a previous podcast with Dr. Jill Manning, who identified some patterns in those who have compulsive behaviors with pornography that she has learned as a therapist, treating some of those families and those who love them, and we will put a link to that in the podcast copy. Deanna. As we conclude, we ask all of our guests the same question who come on the Church News podcast, and it’s, “What do you know now?” So, I hope that you can just close and share your testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and answer the question about what do you know now, after you have spent so much effort and time trying to protect kids and make media-savvy kids, and help families have better conversations that will bless children? 

40:35  

Deanna Lambson: Oh, wow, that’s such a big question. You know, I think as I have spent time learning about this issue, I have kind of a mantra that I have picked up, and that is that every time you learn something new, your child is immediately safer, and I hold on to that, and I keep learning, I keep learning. And I know that Heavenly Father knew when He sent my kids to me that I would make some mistakes, and He knew that I didn’t have it all figured out. And He still sent them to me, which means that He trusted me to do the best I could to keep learning, to love them, to teach them the gospel, and to trust that He would walk with me on this path. 

I think sometimes, especially when we talk about some of the challenges or the threats that we see online or in the world today, we start to feel a little scared and a little hopeless. And through all of my experience, both with my own family and learning about this issue, I know that there is always hope, there is always hope. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is a message of hope. 

So regardless of how this issue may affect you or your family, whether it’s you personally, a child, a spouse, a recurring addiction, a painful past, whatever it might be, the answer is in Jesus Christ. The answer is in Jesus Christ, it always is. He has the messages of hope. He has the ability to heal. He has the ability to give us guidance, and the resources that we need. 

I believe in the power of families, I believe in the power of parents, and regardless of what influences our kids may come across in the world, parents are still the No. 1 influence on their kids, and that you are doing a good job with your kids and your grandkids, and it is Satan that would want you to say there’s no hope, or I’m not doing well enough. That’s not a message from God. That’s a message from the adversary. So choose to hope. Choose to believe and continue learning and know that the Lord has a plan and that it’s going to be OK.

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer KellieAnn Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.