This short interview of me on Ebru television is filled with my suggetions as a positive psychologist and educator in how to stay alert for bullies.
Bullies are scary. We have to stay alert as parents. Watch for certain signs. If your child’s marks are falling down, she cries easily, she just seems different, talk to her. Stay alert. You have every right to be an alert parent. You can always call the guidance counselor or the teacher and see if anything is going on in school.
Sometimes the best thing to do is to be a listening mother, who is aware of your child. Lecturing is not what it is all about.
In The Truth (I’m I girl, I’m smart and I know everything) the girl shares how terrible she feels when her mother walks away from her when she is trying to talk to her. She wants to know from her own mother when she needs a bra. She really doesn’t want to ask someone else’s mother!
Don’t forget, mom, put down the cell phone when your daughter is checking in!
Also, more advice: be a good role model for your kids. They do model off of you and they want to be proud of you.
What I am saying can’t guarantee that your child won’t be bullied, but the more full your home life is, the happier the home is with you staying in charge as the ‘parent,’ the more you will be on top of any changes and be able to help your daughter.
I think it is interesting to share with you some of The Girl’s entries into her diary that are not in the American version of The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything). Two of her entries are about an anxiety dream she has several weeks before she starts the seventh grade in a new school, in a new town. Read on to find out what the dream was like, how her mother helped her handle the dream and what she learned about her parent.
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Only three more weeks until we go back to school. I had a nightmare last night that I couldn’t find my new classrooms and I ended up back in the hallway that has the first, second and third grade classrooms. My heart was pounding in the dream and I was sweating. I kept running up and down the hallway but I couldn’t find any older kids, only babies, six, seven and eight. I knew I would be the last one to get to my new homeroom and I would look like a fool on the first day of school. No one comes in late on the first day!
Then I finally saw the hallway that goes to the seventh and eighth grade classrooms. But when I tried to reach it, it was like I could hardly move. I just couldn’t get there. I felt myself pulling on my body to move but nothing happened.
Then I woke up. I went in to my mother and father’s room and lay down on the floor with a blanket from my bed. They didn’t even know I was there. I just couldn’t be alone after that dream. I hate dreams like that and that’s the truth.
My mother said I had an anxiety dream and a lot of people do before they have to do something new. I’m glad she told me that. I hope I don’t have anymore anxiety dreams.
She told me a lot of other stuff today. I guess ‘cause I’m getting older. My mother really knows a lot. She should have been a doctor or a teacher. She never went to college but wants me to go.
She told me that she had a choice of being a secretary or working in my Uncle Dan’s clothing store when she finished high school. She chose to become a secretary because my Grandfather said he would pay for her to go to secretarial school.
I asked her if she wanted to go to college. She said that she never thought about it because none of the girls in her family had ever gone to college.
She told me that once her brother said to her, “Edith, you are dumb but beautiful. Don’t worry. That’s ok. It is better than being dumb and not pretty.”
My mother promised herself when I was born that I would get more education than she had. She told me that she has been putting ten dollars a week away since I was born for my college education.
I hope I can really make her proud of me. I know that I’m smart. I hope that I’m pretty. I’m still scared and that really is the truth.
In Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine, the girl really worries about getting older and how hard it will be to be a teen. She is very aware. Aren’t all of our girls? She is writing a lot of songs, a few of them appear in the book. In one of the songs she says:
“What is in store for me as I get older?
How can I leave behind so much of me?”
Yes, we do leave behind parts of ourselves at each transition in life. And of course, we get new aspects to ourselves. It is very hard to transition. If you have had to move as an adult, or started a new job, or maybe lived through a marriage that fell apart, you know how terribly hard transitions can be. However, sometimes we forget how hard it is to grow up. It is but a distant memory as we go through our busy days. Yet we need to remember and to find ways to help our kids transition.
Can you remember being a kid moving toward puberty, and the teen years? I am asking readers for input. Here is what one reader shared:
“When I was growing up I felt like I couldn’t do anything right. My parents were not ever happy and I was always fighting with my brother and sister. The cool kids in school made fun of me because I was little heavy and most of my clothes were made by my mother or grandmother. We didn’t have a lot of money, in fact I cannot ever remember a time growing up where my parents weren’t worried about how they would pay the bills and put food on the table.
I was thankful that they made my clothes (and in some varity of my favorite color – red) and I wore them proudly but the feelings of shame and confusion because of the kids at school put me in an emotional whirlwind. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was coming or going!
I was worried about it getting worse as I approached middle school and having older kids around that would probably push me about and make fun of me as well. I was scared to death of getting older and things getting worse. I just couldn’t see that life is what I make of it and if I’m not happy with something then I’m the only one who can change it. At that age you are more worried about what your friends think, what rumors are being spread, your school work, and trying to have a little peace and harmony at home then to look at how you can better your own situation and emotional chaos.
Then there was my little sister who got away with everything, blamed me for the things she actually gets in trouble for and who I had to share everything with. We shared a room, had bunk beds, and I never had my own play things. In fact I was stuck with my sister in the same room until I was 17 and my older brother moved out but that is a story for another day and a whole different set of problems.
Growing up is hard, but I think if we stay positive and teach our kids that if they think positive and work towards shaping their life to how they desire it to be instead of following the herd that they can be happy, even during the emotional roller coaster of puberty!”
What a moving story. Our reader overcame many obstacles. And the truth is that most of us do come through puberty and grow up with strong resources, some degree of optimism, humor, caring for others, the capacity to love and many other great traits. But it isn’t easy, and we owe it to our girls to help them through the process with wisdom and support. That’s what I do in my work as a positive psychologist. You may be doing it as a parent, aunt, teacher, guidance counselor, grandparent.
Try reading passages together with your youngster from either The Truth or Secrets. You will find it fascinating, as feelings and thoughts and memories start to be exchanged. This is one of the most therapeutic ways to make sure you have really ‘heard’ and understand your youngster and the bonus is she gets a better chance to ‘hear’ and understand YOU! It is a win, win for both.
In The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) the girl talks, at times, about not wanting to grow up.
Feelings about not wanting to grow up are common and often not discussed, as kids realize that most of the time parents expect them to want to grow up.
We as adults have often forgotten about how hard it is to move into adolescence. The bodily changes alone, are overwhelming. How many of us suffered with pimples, anxieties about getting our period, and all sorts of other issues? Just about all of us, although these issues may seem very far away now. I remember some mood swings that seemed to come out of the blue when I was 11. Hormones raging through my body, I’m sure didn’t help.
We have to be compassionate and helpful to those young ladies in our lives who are transitioning. Giving advise, and sharing about our own ups and downs as we moved through those years can take the pressure off a lot of what is happening.
The girl in The Truth realizes there are some great things about not being a grown-up yet. For example, she doesn’t have to earn a living. She can focus most of her attention on herself, her school work and other interests. Later in life it is harder to focus on ourselves. Multi-tasking takes over and there is little time for self-development.
At the same time, it is for most of us, a blessing to be part of a family of some sort, and to have a chance to participate in raising children. It is often exciting to work at a job and to have the power to make decisions about the course of our lives.
So really, all stages of life have their benefits and their losses. If we can stay light hearted as we see some of the pluses and minuses and keep a sense of humor, we can have such fun talking to kids about our stage of life as well as listening to the successes and frustrations that our kids feel about their lives.
The simple message is: Keep sharing. Your daughter will grow up even if she doesn’t want to for the moment. Don’t panic. Keep talking and sharing. Laugh and cuddle. Spend time together and give her your wisdom. But…make sure your don’t block out hers! She has wisdom also! Enjoy listening to it.
“I think everything I make is a master piece!” These words were spoken by Cecelia who is a fashion designer. What makes her particularly unique is that she is 10 years old. She has been designing since she was 6.
When I saw Cecelia on television a couple of months ago, talking about her passion, sewing her creations, and then saw other children wearing the clothing, I was amazed and impressed. It was fascinating to see her in a fabric store picking the fabrics for her clothing. She clutched a bolt of fabric, saying “I can’t live without that piece of fabric.” She now has Trunk shows in exclusive stores and is often busy sewing her clothing for other girls her age. Truthfully I loved her clothes and could even imagine liking them for myself in a big enough size. It is unusual to find people of any age so connected and centered to a passion. It is extremely unusual at 10.
Obviously Cecelia has been able to recognize and hold on to her talents and potential. And as they say, behind every great King is a great Queen. Well, behind Cecelia, must be parents who are guiding, encouraging and helping her with her talents.
What can Cecelia teach the rest of us? Certainly not that every kid must have a talent that makes them famous. Rather she reminds us all the living our dreams, doing what feels really significant to us, is a gift we should all try to get to at some point in our lives. Why? Because it makes us feel whole. We are useful to society and we thrive. These are but some of the good reasons. And how do we get there? And when?
These are big questions and not so easy to answer. But we do know that the ways we parents are critically important. Here are some guidelines:
1. Recognize and help your child to recognize her talents, strengths, coping skills, interests and of course potential.
2. Never say never to a dream of hers, (unless it is harmful). If she can’t take ice skating lessons this year because of money, leave the door open for next year. Help her figure out a way to make sure it happens by next year. Perhaps she can get a scholarship. Perhaps you can offer your services, whether making phone calls, or baking cookies or cleaning the waiting room for parents, in lieu of payment. Get on your thinking cap and try.
3. Bring interesting information and ideas into your household. Encourage good use of time. Collecting rocks or leaves or anything can lead to a science discussion or a fascination into the ways of nature. A family walk can be meaningful, healthy and leave everyone in a good mood. Always stay alert so you are opening your child’s mind and senses to the positive dimensions of being alive.