Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, author of Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe, comments on the New York Times article, Online Bullies Pull Schools Into the Fray

The girl in Secrets: You Tell me Yours and I”ll Tell You Mine…maybe! has to deal with a lot of stuff. She has to adjust to a new middle school, leaving behind all her friends. She has family problems and issues. No one really understands her and she worries about keeping her best friend. And on top of that she has a crush that seems to be going nowhere.

But one thing she doesn”t have to worry night and day about is serious and potentially dangerous bullying. That is because she lives thirty years ago, when many of us parents grew up. She lives with telephones and television. Can you remember those days? Remember when a tiny note rolled up and passed along in class could be devastating? Or someone changing tables in the cafeteria as you sat down could be a message that hurt for months? These sorts of events were awful and you may have cried yourself to sleep on several occasions.

But just magnify that by 1000 and you get closer to what today”s kids have to deal with. The New York Times article brilliantly outlines the typical nightmares that many kids of today face and also the difficulties that schools have in curbing much of it. After all, schools of today, just as 30 years ago, can”t control what happens after school or on the weekend.

As a psychologist and school psychologist I take very seriously what is happening to today”s kids. Parents and schools need to respond and act, not just react. Here are some tips for you as a parent:

You, as a parent, are on the front lines of your child”s development. That means:

Making yourself available to your child at meals, in the car, in the evening when possible, and on the weekends. Here is how:

Basic Rule: Don”t use cell phones, phones, or computers when your child is expecting and may need connection, help, advice or simply love from you.

Will this be a big change for you? Maybe. But it is essential. Research shows and we can figure this out for ourselves, kids don”t like it when their parents are only giving them partial concentration.

Ways to start: Don”t talk on your cell in the car anymore when your child is with you. Also, it will make you also a safer driver.

Don”t bring any cell phones, etc. to the dinner table with you.

Don”t answer the phone during mealtime, unless an emergency is going on.

Make sure you have meals with your kid at least three nights a week.

In the evening when kids need help with homework, etc. try reading a book or doing any project that you can instantly turn away from as you go in and out of their space.

Plan weekend time as a family. During that time, whether it is a picnic or visiting a relative, set aside only brief times when any of you can use technology. Try talking, laughing, telling jokes, reminiscing. These things have worked for centuries!

I”ll be back with more tips. Remember, the child you are protecting is your own! It is worth the effort.

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