Disappointingly, I find it as natural to have a conversation with some fifth- and sixth-graders as I do chatting with one of my best friends. It seems many 10- and 11-year-olds enjoy the same movies, music, and experiences as 30-somethings. R-rated films, CDs with explicit lyrics, and television shows intended for mature audiences are more familiar to children in elementary schools than to grown-ups.

Regardless of whether we blame it on teen pregnancy or poor parenting skills, our children are growing up way too fast, and it is extremely important that we shield them from adult experiences that accelerate their childhood and launch them too soon into adulthood.

Lessen some of their responsibilities

Some kids have an agenda of responsibilities that mimic their parents, and babysitting is one of the most common. Because mom has to work the second shift, her 11-year-old watches the younger siblings. It is important that parents understand and observe the effects that babysitting have on children. For example, making an pre-adolescent or early teen take care of a younger sibling can cause that child to either feel resentment toward kids or think they’re mature enough to have kids of their own.

If you can’t find an alternative means of cheap child care, consider having a grandparent or good friend watch your younger kids at least a couple days out the week. As a parent, you should constantly question whether you are providing the healthiest choices for your child, and forcing them to watch a younger sibling, although it may be greatly needed, is not one of them.

Trash your child’s sexy wardrobe

Girls as young as seven wear jeans that enhance their backsides. Grade-school girls wear graphic T-shirts that advertise their sexuality, and many teenagers get tattoos that give claim to significant others. With many young black girls hitting puberty at an early age, it is absolutely necessary to tone down our daughters’ clothing and accessories. Young girls in tight clothes are prey to guys on street corners with the wrong intentions, guys who consider everything about your child except her age.

If you don’t want your child exposed to the catcalls of males, keep them out of clothing that, some males think, warrants it. Young minds aren’t yet able to handle the advances of older men, and our daughters have not gathered the tools needed to stop unwanted advances.

Exclude kids from grown-up conversations

When I was a child, I remember my mother and her best friend sitting at our kitchen table talking. Mostly I remember hearing the start of the conversation and then, when things got good, my mother turned to me and said, “How many teeth do I have?”-a cue for me to leave the room and stay out of what she called “grown-folks’ business.” Nowadays, our children seem only to have grown-folks’ business. Their topics of conversation include relationships, sex, and fighting with other peers over the opposite sex, conversations not unlike those you hear in beauty shops on Friday nights, conversations they hear from us.

The next time you just have to spread gossip or need to vent to a friend, check to see if your child is listening. If they are, have them leave the room. Exclude them from your personal conversations so they won’t spread the information or imitate the behavior they hear about.

Keep entertainment PG

Today’s lyrics in R&B and hip-hop music are infused with vulgarity and sexual references. Yet some parents are so immune to it, they drop their children off at school while bumping Usher’s “Love in this Club.”

Contrary to what some parents believe, it is possible for children to listen to music without explicit lyrics. Parents just have to be more active in their children’s lives to prevent it from happening. Moms can easily pull the plug on stations that play songs with raunchy lyrics. Parents can make their kids buy only the clean version of CDs. More importantly, parents can stop listening to music with mature lyrics while their children are present.

It is important for your children’s experiences to mimic their age. You had a childhood. Now give them one-a period of discovering who they are and who they want to be-and give them time to grow into it.