What do we tell fans of the hit Nickelodeon series “Zoey 101” now that the star, 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, is pregnant?
On television, Zoey is one of the first girls at a boarding school that has just gone co-ed. Zoey has problems like figuring out who tp’d the girls’ dorm, finding a prom date, or playing Disc Golf against the team from the correctional school. In real life, the girl who plays Zoey, is having a baby.
Spears, the sister of pop sensation turned tabloid sensation Britney, plans to have the baby and raise it at home. The media refers to the baby’s father as her “long-term boyfriend.” In my view, no one at 16 is old enough to have a long-term anything. “Long-term” may not be a good thing, anyway. There are media reports that he may be charged with statutory rape. Having sex, even consensual, with an underage girl is rape, a felony with serious criminal penalties. And given the record of Spears’ parents in raising their own children, I would not be surprised if Child Protective Services tried to intervene to prevent them from raising this child to prevent all of us from having to go through another media frenzy over what the baby is doing in another dozen years.
But the most important issue right now is how we as parents talk to our children about what is happening. “Zoey 101” is an Emmy-award-winning and very popular television show aimed at 8-14-year olds. What makes this situation especially difficult is that it is just at this age that children first look outside the family and school for role models and they can take it very hard when the celebrities they admire get into trouble.
The most important thing parents can do is be there to answer questions and to make it clear that Jamie Lynn made a big mistake that will affect the rest of her life but that her family still loves and supports her. You might also want to talk about how sometimes people we admire very much, both those we know and those we watch from afar, don’t live up to our expectations, and that that can be hard to handle. It is okay to still like Zoey (or Jamie Lynn). And it is also okay to like her less, based on her behavior. But we never feel bad about having been a fan, even when we are ready to move on.
You should also ask some gentle questions of your own to find out what your child thinks about what is happening and what she thinks Jamie Lynn and her family should do. Now may be the time to listen more than talk. We might wish we could pick the times for these teachable moments, but sometimes they are thrust upon us, and all we can do is try to provide information and support for what may be a very difficult moment for our children.
Are you getting questions about Jamie Lynn? How are you handling them?