A Porch Party Bully

A bully at a fun party for girls is no fun. Bullies have always been around. However, for today’s tweens and teens things are much worse. Not only does that bullied kid have to feel hurt, left out, made fun of, or worse in public, as in this footage, but she may go home to a sleepless night wondering what else is being said to about her on social media. As a psychologist and a filmmaker it is my mission to show you some of the challenges today’s kids face. My challenge to you is how will you deal with a bully if your daughter or son has one in his or her life? And maybe even a bigger challenge, what will you do if your child is the bully? Here are some suggestions if your child may be being bullied:

1. Monitor your child’s involvement with social media. Bullying that happens on-line may be kept from you. Create a clear stance that allows you to know what is happening on sites your child visits.

2. Share what happened to you. Any stories out of your past where you were threatened, or on the upside, put a bully in his place are great. They make you more human as a parent. Someone your child can open up to.

3.Watch your child’s behaviors. If sudden change, for example she will no longer eat at the table with the family, or his door is closed all the time don’t wait. Take time to chat. Punishing will not be as helpful as sharing your concerns, giving a hug and letting your child know you are there.

4. If she tells you about a bully or bullying at school stay alert. Ask her if she wishes you to come to school and intercede. She may not, but make clear that you will make the final judgment on the situation.

5. The best advice is listen to your child. Put your phone down, stop texting when your child is around. Stay involved in his or her life. Do activities together, from family picnics to telling jokes. Be available and take charge as necessary.

6. If you have a hunch your child is the bully, suggestion 5. is the best place to start. Once confirmed, you will need to find a moment to confront him or her, letting your child know that you know and you are there to help. You will often find out that your child has felt bullied or put down or ignored and is retaliating in some fashion.

7. Of course professional help from a counselor, social worker, psychologist, or a psychiatrist may be in order for either the bullied or the bully. We are talking about serious behaviors and possible personality disorders with lasting effects. You are the parent, do due diligence and take your child for an evaluation of you deem it necessary, whether she is the bullied or the bully.

For a look at a bully in action, please go to: https://vimeo.com/268785181

Kids Have Deep Thoughts and Feelings, Too!

Sometimes, maybe often, in the hustle and bustle of living and getting kids ready for school, driving them to after school activities, thinking about braces, homework, calling them out on minor offenses, worrying about how we will pay the bills, and sometimes much more serious dilemmas: someone is ill, dad lost his job, the marriage is falling apart, my kid is being bullied, there was another shooting in a public school, a cousin overdosed on drugs, etc. we have no time to process the inner life of our kids.

But the inner life exists and begs to be heard. Questions about how grown-ups handle serious issues such as school shootings bother kids on a daily basis. Kids are deeply affected by how other kids are treated, even a news item like kids being separated from parents at our borders can create feelings of despair, confusion and worries about how we handle children in our country. Also, kids wonder how and why people end up seriously addicted or dead. And don’t forget faith and religion, a topic older than that Bible. Kids wonder if there is an after life, why good people get hurt or killed, etc.

Let’s not be blind sighted. We may not have all the answers to ‘deep’ questions that have plagued sleepless nights of many for thousands of years, but we can be attentive to our children psychologically, spiritually and even politically. Here are a some suggestions:

Create a time for your family to share good news, good deeds, disappointments, concerns and questions. Creating a setting where people who love each other can sincerely listen and respond to anything from trivial good news to serious concerns will help your kids, whether they are 2 or 22 feel safer to share what is really on their minds. No put downs if possible and your job is to truly listen and create this space. That means no phones on, and maybe a treat, such as a favorite dessert. It also means you being honest and sharing your memories about ‘deep’ thoughts and concerns, and taking seriously what your kids bring up. Listening is only the first step. Action, where required is the next.

For example, in this film clip: https://vimeo.com/275643285 the girl was very unsatisfied listening to her minister as he wasn’t talking about the issues on her mind. Ideally if she could have shared these feelings with her parents, they would try to come to some helpful conclusions. What they would decide is as unique as each family, but solutions could be to not force the girl to go to services right now, find a different church, discuss some of the ‘deep’ issues of life at home, take some social actions as a family in town, etc.

Beyond this film clip, if news events, from school shootings, to overdoses, to separation of kids from parents at border crossings upset or concern your kids, set a good example. Maybe call or write your senators and congress people with your kids present. Talk about the importance of voting. Show them how a democracy works by you participating in the process.

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