Getting Teens To Talk

Adolescence is the beginning of a long journey toward independence and can be one of the most difficult times for parents to negotiate. Though this is a very important process that parents want for the healthy development of their children, sometimes parents ask the question…what happened to my sweet little angel who used to tell me everything? If you find yourself at the place where communicating with your teen feels like speaking a foreign language, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
  1. LISTEN to the small stuff. It’s how we, as parents, earn the right to be trusted with the big stuff.
  2. LISTEN for the feelings. Summarize what they say and how they might be feeling (even if you have to guess).
  3. LISTEN, even when it’s difficult. IF you opt for getting upset, telling them what to do, or minimizing their issues, (“don’t let it get to you,” “that’s not such a big deal”), you can expect them to shut down very quickly.
  4. LISTEN…without judging. Decide if your teen needs to a) just blow off steam or b) find a solution. If (b), then take the position of asking helpful questions that LEAD your adolescent to find his/her solution. You want them to learn the PROCESS of thinking for themselves.
Remember:
—   The quality of the solution is not as important as the process by which it was reached.

—   The only way children learn to solve their own problems is with practice.

The hurried child: Are you willing to swim upstream?

As August moves forward, school settles into a familiar rhythm and the pace of family life quickens. School. Practices. Foreign languages. Clubs. Tutors. Private lessons. Games. Church activities. Homework. And the list goes on…and on…and, well, you get the picture. Our homes ring with the words, “Hurry up, we’ll be late” and we rush our kids from one activity to the next. We zip through the drive-thru and throw processed food at our kids as they attempt to finish homework in the backseat. We sacrifice their nutrition and our own sanity to the rush of one more practice or game or commitment. As parents, we have a choice to make: do we follow along with our hurried culture and sign our children up for yet one more activity (who said peer pressure vanished with high school?!) or, do we swim upstream?

Many modern day American parents have fallen victim to this underlying system of beliefs: My children deserve to be happy and successful. It is my job to make them happy and successful. If I give my child more “opportunities” (also known as classes, lessons, tutors, etc.) to obtain experience and knowledge they will be more likely to grow up to be happy and successful and I will have done my job. If we (and I definitely include myself here!) as adults recall the most happy, carefree days of our own childhood it is likely that those memories do not involve structured, organized “opportunities”, but rather (gasp!) unstructured free play with friends and/or siblings. Our children today are stressed-out, over-scheduled, and under-played.

Research is overwhelmingly in support of slowing down the pace of our children’s daily lives and of giving them back the chance to get bored, to find something to do on their own and to relish in pretend play. I could name book after book written by prestigious authors who support this notion, but, at the end of the day it comes down to this: Are we, as parents, willing to swim upstream? It is hard work. It can be exhausting. It is not fun or easy to hold to a different set of beliefs from our culture (pesky peer pressure again!). Are we willing to stand our ground and say “no” to countless “opportunities” that present themselves to us time and time again? Are we willing to listen to our kids bickering and fighting as they attempt to plow through their own boredom to find something to do? It is far easier to sit in the bleachers checking your own email as your child runs up and down the basketball court than to stick it out at home on a Saturday morning as your child struggles to find a new mode of entertainment. Remember, we have created this culture of hurriedness for our children and they will have to “detox” and adjust as we slow the pace.

Okay, you are still with me so I will assume you might be willing to swim upstream. How do we do this in a practical way?

  • Just say NO! Limit your children to one or maybe two activities at a time, depending on their age. If it is soccer season and your child really wants to be on the team, go for it! But let that be the activity for that season. I will warn you, and I speak from experience here, this is hard. There will be times when you think you are depriving your child of the chance to be the next Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Julie Andrews before he or she turns 10. You worry that you are not helping your child find his or her “thing.” Hang in there. It gets easier.
  • Unplug on a regular basis. Have technology-free time as a  family: play a board game together, go for a walk, collect items and make a collage or sculpture, take turns asking each other “what if” questions (What if you could jump into a book…which book would you jump into and why?), bake something yummy and share it with a neighbor.
  • Make family dinners a priority. The research here is so strong! Families who eat a meal together on a regular basis have kids who perform better in school and hold up under peer pressure when it comes to big stuff like drugs, alcohol, and sex.
  • Fight the urge to plan every moment. Allow for chunks of time in your child’s day that are not filled with activities and events.
  • Resist the urge to buy every latest and greatest toy or electronic gadget. Provide your child with toys that encourage open-ended play: blocks, blank paper and crayons/paints/markers, play-doh or clay, dress up clothes, boxes of varying sizes that can become anything, etc.
  • Pay attention to your child. Ask your child which activity he or she would most like to engage in right now. Watch for signs of your child being overwhelmed or stressed-out (fatigue, anxiety, irritability, poor sleep habits) and be prepared to scale

Vital Facts About Bullying

In the previous article we discussed known risk factors that characterize both individuals who become victims and aggressors who become bullies. In addition to these risk factors researchers have been successful at garnering a number of vital statistics that demonstrate the prevalence of bullying, who is being bullied and how those individuals are effected, as well as common methods used, including the use of emerging technologies. The statistics presented here are not meant to overwhelm but to inform and provide the opportunity to create a dialogue with family and friends based on real data. The more we can educate ourselves about bullying the better prepared we will be to spot it when it occurs and to take the right steps to ensure that it is stopped.

Overall Statistics

  • Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.
  • Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.
  • 17% of American students report being bullied 2 to 3 times a month or more within a school semester.
  • 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% of the time.
  • By age 14 less than 30% of boys and 40% of girls will talk to their peers about bullying.
  • Over 67% of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.
  • 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
  • 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
  • 1 in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.
  • As boys age they are less and less likely to feel sympathy for victims of bullying. In fact they are more likely to add to the problem than solve it.
  • Physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant.

Source: 11 Facts about Bullying

https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-bullying

Cyber Bullying Statistics 

  • Depending on the age group, up to 43% of students have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once.
  • 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 have had it happen more than once.
  • 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mail or other messages.
  • 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.
  • 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
  • 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.

Source: The Issue of Bullying: Cyber Bullying Statistics http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/about-bullying-and-cyberbullying/issue-bullying/

 Many Forms of Bullying

Of those bullied:

  • 19% are made fun of, called names, or insulted
  • 16% are subject of rumors
  • 9% are pushed, shoved, tripped, or are spit on
  • 6% are threatened with harm
  • 5% are excluded from activities
  • 4% are forced to do things they didn’t want to do
  • 3% Had property destroyed

Who Is Being Bullied?

  • 25% of males and 20% of females said they had been either bullied, bullied others, or both 2-3 times a month or more.
  • Males & females experience similar rates of verbal bullying, threats, damage to property
  • Males are more likely to experience physical bullying.
  • Females are more likely to experience bullying through rumor-spreading and exclusion.
  • Boys are typically bullied by boys, while girls are bullied by both boys and girls.

What Is the Impact of Bullying?

Kids who are bulled are more likely to have:

  • Depressive symptoms
  • Headaches, backaches, and stomach pain
  • Sleep problems, poor appetite, as well as bed-wetting
  • Harmed themselves
  • High levels of suicidal thoughts
  • Attempted suicide
  • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
  • A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

Kids Who Bully Others

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood and are more likely to:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
  • Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
  • Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

Kids Keep Silent about Bullying

  • As children age, the percentage of those who do not report bullying climbs: 18% of 3rd graders do not report which increases to 47% of 11th
  • Those who are silent do so for reasons such as the negative messages they previously received about tattling and snitching, concern about retaliation, and lack of confidence in adults’ actions.
  • 90% of 3rd – 5th grade students said they felt sorry for students who are bullied, but sympathy often does not translate into action.

Source: bullying—what you need to know http://www.stopbullying.gov/images/what-you-need-to-know-infographic.jpg

Source: Effects of bullying

http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/index.html

CONSIDER

If you or someone you know has experienced bullying or if you are currently being bullied, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, and you should continue to ask until you get the help you need. By opening up to someone you trust, you avoid the isolation that comes with being unsure, and you create the opportunity to receive guidance from those who can ultimately help.

Stay tuned for… What You Can Do about Bullying

Summer’s Almost Here! Now What?

Alice Cooper’s iconic song “School’s Out” has the tendency to elicit one of a few specific emotions, especially during the months of May and June. For children and teenagers, the song prompts a sense of overwhelming joy and general youthful jubilance. No more school, no more books, no more bedtimes or alarm clocks, and no more homework- who wouldn’t be excited about that? For most parents, on the other hand, that song (along with a strange shift in their child’s behavior right around the end of school) can elicit pure, unadulterated angst. What the heck are you going to do with your kid(s) all summer? Sure, many families will split up the summer with a couple of well-timed vacations to Galveston or some beautiful Texas lake where hopefully the kids will completely wear themselves out and maybe you’ll get a few minutes of peace. But what about those in-between-vacation days when no day camp is scheduled, the overnight camp you signed them up for 3 years ago doesn’t start for another few weeks, and the caffeine your kid had at the end of school party a week ago STILL hasn’t worn off yet? I’ve compiled a list of tips, ideas, and general guidelines to help parents stay at least somewhat focused during these crazy summer months.

First- the general guidelines. Research on brain development has regularly shown that routine matters. For kids, this can apply to nearly every aspect of their lives including having a consistent bedtime, gathering the family for meal times, Saturday morning waffles, or 10 minutes of TV time before bath, book, and bed. Concerning regular bedtimes, researchers at the University of London followed 11,000 children from when they were 3-years old to the age of 7 to measure the effects of bedtimes on cognitive function. The research showed a significant negative impact on test scores in math, reading, and spatial reasoning for those children who had consistently irregular or late bed times. I realize that maintaining a consistent bed time is much easier said than done, but even having lights out at midnight is better than waking up the next morning and realizing your teenager is still on the couch watching the 28th episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix. Let’s be honest- every hour of sleep counts. Speaking of watching TV for hours on end, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should watch no more than two hours of TV per day after two years of age, and none before that. Can we just take a second to think about that? Studies all over the world have shown that more than 2 hours of television viewing a day is a valid predictor of poor performance in vocabulary, math, and motor skills development later in life. How many hours a day does your child watch TV? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure those Baby Einstein videos are less brain-frying than Sponge Bob but allowing your child to watch it all day long? Probably not the best idea. So what are you supposed to do instead?

Here I’ve gathered some fun– and more importantly, time-consuming– ideas for entertaining the kiddos during the summer months. We can go ahead and assume that you know about (or have already tried) simply turning on the sprinkler in the back yard and letting the kids go wild. Depending on the age of your child, pulling out the sprinkler just may do the trick. However, for older children, fighting off boredom may prove to be more difficult. Here’s where a little work can go a long way. No, I’m not suggesting that you try to get your 15 year old a sales internship that you think will prepare them for their future career (unless they are passionate about it, that is). What I’m suggesting is this: does your teenager love animals? How about volunteering at the local animal shelter? Could your garage benefit from a thorough spring-cleaning? Have your teen set up a garage sale- and promise him or her a portion of the cash! Perhaps your hallway bathroom needs a new paint job or maybe you’ve always wanted a small vegetable garden in the backyard. Planning out and building a vegetable garden can teach the kids about agriculture, healthy eating, and the value of getting your hands dirty. Not to mention the satisfaction of literally experiencing the fruits of your own labor! Stuck inside on a rainy day? A disco party (complete with mom or dad flicking on and off the overhead lights), putting on a play or musical (don’t forget the video camera), or a trip to the IMAX at the planetarium are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. This is a perfect time to create life-long memories with your family- so get outside, have fun, relax, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

If you need some more fun ideas, check out this website of 50 summer activities for the kiddos!   http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/13269/50-summer-bucket-list

Bullying: An Introduction

Is it my imagination or does it seem like there is a surge in reported incidents of bullying? I was led to this question because the topic of bullying appears to be frequently covered by the news media and reports can range from children bullying out on the playground to teens and young adults engaging in targeted harassment carried out online. In fact, a quick Google search for 2015 news articles related to bullying among children, adolescents, and teenagers netted several thousand results. Additionally, my brief search returned another somber finding: a recent meta-study now indicates a connection between bullying and suicide. As I began reviewing page after page of results, questions began flooding my mind: Who is this happening to? What are the warning signs? Where does bullying mostly take place? Why is this still happening, and how can we prevent it?

Bullying pic

“Will I ever be… (accepted, liked, left alone)?”

I’m sure the same questions race through the minds of others after reading a news article or watching a TV report about the latest bullying incident. In an instant the desire to protect our loved ones wells up in us and simultaneously we feel compassion and want to help end these tragedies. Yet, we are all so busy and life seems to have a way of redirecting our thoughts back to our most immediate and pressing needs. Also, based on the number of Internet search results alone, it would take tons of time to sort through and dissect all of the information that is available and, understandably so, most of us are currently too tapped out for that kind of time commitment.

Thus, it is my goal to provide you with helpful facts you can quickly read and readily use. Since this topic has many pathways of information, I will try to pair it down to what is most relevant and will include links in case you want to read further.

Therefore, to begin we must understand what bullying is and be able to distinctly identify the nature of the behavior.

Definition:  Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

+ An Imbalance of Power: Individuals who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

+ Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying includes actions such as:

+ Making threats

+ Spreading rumors

+ Attacking someone physically or verbally

+ Excluding someone from a group on purpose

CONSIDER

If any of the information above is resonating with you because it seems a friend or family member is experiencing some of the same behaviors, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t have it in our ability to fix the situation for one reason or another or, perhaps, we may be unsure that bullying is actually taking place. Either way, by opening up to someone we know, we can avoid the isolation that comes from being unsure. Moreover, creating a dialogue also creates awareness and provides the opportunity to receive guidance from individuals and resources that can ultimately help.

Source: “What is Bullying?” http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html

Stay tuned for… Types of Bullying

Getting Teens to Talk

Adolescence is one of the most difficult times for parents to negotiate with their children. This is the beginning of a long journey toward independence. Though this is a very important process that parents want for the healthy development of their children, sometimes parents ask the question…what happened to my sweet little angel who used to tell me everything? If you find yourself at the place where communicating with your teen feels like speaking a foreign language, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  1. LISTEN to the small stuff. It’s how we, as parents, earn the right to be trusted with the big stuff.
  2. LISTEN for the feelings. Summarize what they say and how they might be feeling (even if you have to guess).
  3. LISTEN, even when it’s difficult. IF you opt for getting upset, telling them what to do, or minimizing their issues, (“don’t let it get to you,” “that’s not such a big deal”), you can expect them to shut down very quickly.
  4. LISTEN…without judging. Decide if your teen needs to a) just blow off steam, or b) find a solution. If (b), then take the position of asking helpful questions that LEAD your adolescent to find his/her solution. You want them to learn the PROCESS of thinking for themselves.

Remember:
— The quality of the solution is not as important as the process by which it was reached.
— The only way children learn to solve their own problems is with practice.