It’s no mystery that celebrities in America are intensely scrutinized through constant media attention.  Every movement and action is dissected, analyzed, and mocked by millions of strangers who know nothing about the reality of celebrities’ lives.  Every other day there seems to be a new article about mishaps and accidents in various celebrities’ lives, and one the individuals who is getting the most attention right now is Lindsay Lohan.  Once a successful child star, Lindsay’s name is in the news for reported DUI’s, court appearances, hit and runs, and general misbehavior.  What might have started as normal young-adult rebelliousness has appeared to spin out of control  Most often, an individual’s wild escapades are a cry for help and an attempt to distract themselves from something they’re missing in life, whether it’s parental love, meaningful friendships, or just time to relax.

Unfortunately, individuals with high status (like those of celebrities) mean the consequences of their actions aren’t as swift or harsh as they would be for anyone else.  Judges routinely let off celebrities with just a warning, a few hours of community service, or a meaningless fine when another person would be burdened with a heavier sentence.  Celebrities such as Lindsay are also enabled time and time again by the studios with movie deals or their managers and caretakers whose sole job is to say “yes” to every request.  Because celebrities’ lives are so public and teens look up to them, should they be expected to set an example for children and teens who see their pictures and news stories?  As parents, it can be difficult to figure out how to discuss inappropriate celebrities with your children.  Their erratic behavior and complex histories are sometimes too much for kids to understand.  Here are a few tips to discuss and limit the influence of celebrities’ behavior on your children.

Tips to discuss and limit the influence of celebrities’ behavior on your children:

1. Limit their exposure to celebrities who are most likely to set bad examples.

It is no secret that children are like sponges.  They absorb almost everything they see and hear, both good and bad.  If your children sit in front of the TV all day, just imagine how many times they will see images of celebrities behaving irresponsibly, especially if they tune the channel themselves.  Make sure they are consuming quality tv, books, and radio.

2. Give them positive role model alternatives.

From an early age, encourage your children to look up to positive role models, instead of celebrities.  Some professional athletes are involved with charities and other great organizations that promote good values.  Plus, finding a responsible professional athlete to look up to who will encourage your child to get interested in a particular sport, which keeps them exercising and healthy.  There are also plenty of lower profile celebrities who involve themselves in volunteer work and aid organizations which kids can get interested in.  Having your child involved in a hobby or sport can give them the opportunity to discover individuals who share a passion for the same thing. Their focus will be on trying to make the world a better place through that passion, instead of engaging in indulgent, self-destructive behaviors.

3. When you do see an example of celebrities accused of a crime, address it right away, and have a discussion with your child about what they think of the behavior.

If you are in the line at the supermarket and there is a row of tabloid covers facing your kids, go ahead and talk about what the covers are depicting.  Explain to your children the real life consequences of what the celebrities are doing, and how it makes people around them feel.  Make sure they understand the implications of drinking and driving, drug use, infidelity, etc.

It can be troubling to see children look up to movie stars who live their lives with such disregard for themselves and others, but you have a far greater-reaching impact as a parent than celebrities do.  Be a constant presence in your children’s lives; love them, nourish them, educate them, and take time to find out who they are and what they think.  Care and attention can prevent kids from growing up feeling like they’re missing something and trying to compensate by engaging in behavior that they have observed in their “idols.”  With a little prevention, guidance, and discussion, you can raise a child who is aware of the truth behind badly behaving celebrities.

Sometimes with teenagers its good to have a someone other than yourself to talk with them as they seem to listen to everyone else except their parent!

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Authors: Matthew Martin, M.S., Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern IMH#10418 | Bailey Scott, B.A., Student Intern