Justin Bieber’s recent arrest has caused the usual polarizing reactions of condemning or supporting his behaviour. I will focus on how his choices can be a wonderful opportunity for parents.
This is an opportunity because discussions on the topics of drug use, boundaries, recklessness, consequences and empathy can happen without your child rolling his eyes in anticipation of a lecture.
Rather than starting with your personal reaction to Bieber’s choices, ask about your child’s opinion. “Hey, so Justin Bieber was arrested for DUI, drag racing and resisting arrest. I’d love to hear your opinion of this.”
Listen to your child’s words without jumping in. If your child says something like, “I don’t care,” you can do a paraphrasing for clarification like this, “So does ‘I don’t care’ mean you aren’t interested in what Justin Bieber does, or that you have other things to do right now?”
If your child is quick to comment, I recommend nodding and listening for the theme of the comments. Is your child upset? (Many of his fans likely will be) Is your child confused? Or angry? Give your child an opportunity to vent about his or her feelings, without trumping that venting with your judgment.
After your child’s opinion is known, throw in some open-ended discussion starters like,
“I wonder why Bieber made these choices?” or
“Getting arrested has really serious consequences like maybe even having his US work VISA taken away (small chance of this.) He seems to be making some bad choices — what do you think needs to happen so he’ll stop this kind of behaviour?”
In terms of drug use, you can talk about how hard it might be for Bieber to say “no” to them when people likely offer them to him regularly. Ask your child something like,
“How would you handle if you went to your friend’s house and someone put drugs down on the table in front of you?” or
“Why do you think people want to use drugs?”
Another important topic to discuss is the pros and cons of being a celebrity. Many preteens/ teens say they “Want to be famous,” but really have no idea what this aspiration means. You can ask,
“I wonder what life is really like for a famous person?” or
“What is it about being famous that looks good to you?” You’ll probably hear something about money, fans, travelling and being able to do whatever you want. You can educate your child about some of the aspects of being famous which cause many celebrities to have addictions, marriage difficulties, and mental illness. Often, celebrities have little say in their schedule and have to miss important family events to work. Being famous might give a person more money, but it won’t make that person happier.
There are alleged reports that Bieber has been taking anti-depressants. To further this conversation, you could talk about why people take those and then ask,
“Why do you think someone as famous as Justin Bieber might need to take pills to make his sadness go away?” or
“I wonder what Bieber is feeling that is pushing him to do these wild things and take pills to make him feel better?”
Psychotherapist Katie Hurley shared this with me, “We can’t escape the fact that the media, which is readily accessible at all times, glorifies young Hollywood. The struggle is often overlooked in favour of instant success. Until a young star begins to make terrible choice — then the media exploits the ‘fallen star.’ Instead of focusing on how the mighty have fallen, parents can use these stories to start important discussions with their Tweens and teens about drugs, alcohol, fame and growing up too quickly. When we engage in honest (non judgmental) discussions with our kids, we help them process and make sense of these difficult situations. All kids are faced with difficult choices at some point. The more we talk about cause and effect, empathy, and making good choices, the better prepared they are when they encounter a difficult choice.”
"It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities." -J.K. Rowling
How is your child responding to the news? I’d love to hear from you over on my Facebook page.
Photo: taken from Justin Bieber's Instagram account