Bullying in South Florida and everywhere is a major issue in today’s society. In the past, bullying was taken lightly and the adage “Kids will be kids” was applied. Today, bullying is taken very seriously and rightfully so. Even though society as a whole is becoming more tolerant of people different than themselves, certain people are at a higher risk for bullying than others. We should be teaching compassion and acceptance, rather than intolerance and fear.
This week, our topic was based on an experience our Social Media manager, Elizabeth Patterson, observed while substitute teaching. She shared how said it is to see kids not being accepted by their peers and how bullying impacts the school system.
Bullying is something that needs to be a topic at the dinner table for all types of families and kids. My suggestions are going to be split in two, one set of suggestions for all children and another suggestion for children you suspect are being bullied/ or actually being bullied.
My child isn’t being bullied but it’s something I want to be mindful of:
- Talk to them about what bullying means to them
- Ask them to share about a time they saw someone else bullied and what they did about it
- Encourage them to come and talk to you about anything, especially being picked on by other kids
- Help build your child’s self-worth by having them use positive affirmations like “I’m a really great student”
- Stay connected with the school and any other organizations your children are involved in
I’m worried my child is being bullied or they are being a bully:
1. Get involved with the school and get a plan of action together
2. Talk to your child everyday about how they are managing
3. Provide them with a list of coping skills they can use
- Go to a teacher
- Talk to a friend
- Be assertive with the bully
- Walk away
- Use humor to alleviate tension
- Stand up for yourself, without being aggressive
- Use positive affirmations to help overcome any fear
4. Give them a list of people at school they can go to when the bullying occurs
5. Have them work on their confidence and self-worth, if this is a concern
- Working with a therapist might be beneficial in teaching them skills
If your child is engaging in bullying behavior or bullying in South Florida, it is important to discourage that behavior and reinforce other positive behavior. Working with a therapist can teach your child the assertiveness skills necessary to reduce the aggressive behavior.
Amanda Landry, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-378-5381 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Justice Department bullying statistics show that 1 out of every 4 kids will be bullied sometime throughout their adolescence and according to the I-Safe American survey of students bullying statistics, about 58 percent of kids admit to never telling an adult when they’ve been the victim of a bullying attack. Bullying comes in all forms, cyber bullying (social media, text, e-mail) and verbal or physical bullying.
Here are some recommendations for how to handle your child being bullied:
Believe what your child/teen is telling you. It’s necessary to develop a safe and trusting relationship with them so they know you will believe in what they are saying and how they may be feeling. They will need an advocate during this time to help them handle the situation.
Understand what your child may be feeling. There could been feelings of anger, sadness, fear and shame. Bullying can lead to severe depression and even suicide. Your child may need to speak to a professional counselor or therapist and they may need you to speak to someone at school or otherwise on their behalf.
Listen to verbal and non-verbal cues your child is sending you. They may show slight changes in mood, behavior, attitude and/or demeanor. Have they started to refuse to go to school? Are their grades slipping? Are they withdrawn or isolating?
Learn all there is to know about the different forms of bullying. It’s important to educate yourself on what social media outlets your child is on and to monitor their use. This can ensure your child isn’t the victim or perpetrator of bullying. Learn the signs of depression; loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from others, changes in sleep patterns, sudden changes in appetite, not being able to concentrate, feeling worthless, guilty, helpless, or hopeless, thinking or talking about death or suicide, and giving away prized possessions or saying good-bye to people can be sign of suicidal thoughts or intentions.
You get to be your child’s biggest advocate and teacher. You can teach them young about treating others the way they want to be treated and how to manage life situations and feelings. You have the opportunity to teach assertiveness, effective communication skills, and positive self-esteem.
Stephanie Savo is a licensed mental health counselor who has been practicing therapy since 2008. She graduated with her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University. Stephanie has experience working with adolescents and young adults. She has been working with adolescents and young adults who experience depression, anxiety, trauma, low self-esteem and worth, lack of identity and individuality, and who want to be empowered.
Stephanie utilizes a variety of therapeutic techniques when working with her clients. She treats the person and the symptoms they are experiences rather than the label. She focuses on taking a collaborative and eclectic approach with her clients to help them get to their desired goals. Stephanie models for and assists her clients with consistent growth and personal development as she does in her own life.
A bullied child is experiencing a myriad of emotions that they need the family to both understand and help him/her overcome. There is shame, guilt, loneliness, isolation, worthlessness, sadness, frustration, irritability, nervousness, blame, intolerance, anger, jealousy, and spite. Any of these may cycle as frequently as seconds apart, making your child difficult to be around or to work with. He/she needs you to share your calm and not meet them in the place of their feelings. Take their emotions seriously and intervene if you feel there is threat of self-harm or harm to others.
Show that you understand what those feelings are and that any or all of them are perfectly acceptable in the face of this strong adversity and that you will stand by their side until it is over, and then some. Highlight strengths without pandering. Know that no matter how talented your child may be, this weight can overshadow that. Remind him/her to focus on the long view: “What will you life be like in 20 years and what skills will you need to hone to keep on that path? Let’s do that today.” Keeping the notions concrete gives your child an anchor to focus on and a way out of the situation.
Remember that being included by the peer group is essential for development and connectivity in the school years and empathize with that notion. Look for outside ways for your child to be included, with peers from an organization, a sport, neighbors, relatives, children of friends, camp, a religious organization, or an after school activity center. Utilize the school’s guidance counselor and your city’s Community Development department as free resources.
Look to a mentor. You may be too biased, at least in their opinion, to give honest feedback. Sure, you say they are good looking, but “you have to, you’re the parent!” Find someone a few years older who can give unbiased responses and that feeling of inclusion. Let your child bounce ideas off of this mentor and ask any questions or share with confidentiality.
Lastly, get your child professional help. Find a professional in your area who can build resiliency in your child, release resentments, learn the social cues of bullying, make the behavioral changes necessary to never be the picked on child again, and process and eliminate the emotional scars left by bullying. I will be running such a group this summer, Mondays 4:30-5:30pm. Call for a consultation at 954-612-9553.
Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Weston, Florida. She is a trauma specialist conducting short-term therapies using metaphor and humor. She works with adolescent and adult individuals, couples, and groups as well as supervising interns. She’s also a published author. Follow her at: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Amazon.