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My Story: I Was Bullied in Middle School

October 20, 2015

By Jessica Vician

My Story: I Was Bullied in Middle School | Middle school is an awkward time with puberty and grooming issues. It's ripe for bullying. Here's one person's story about how bullying gave her four stitches in her head. The author also offers tips on how to address it with your middle school student. | Two students make fun of another student in the hallway.

Friendship in middle school is a complicated thing. Casual friendships can end with a mood swing or a sudden need to be more popular. But these mood swings or changes in social status can result in something more dramatic and way less cool: bullying.

I transferred to a new school district for middle school. It was hard for a new kid to make friends, but I was fortunate that a group of people welcomed me into their circle. Unfortunately, the day came that one of those girls decided to bully me.

She was the girl who chose to pick on someone new each day. I knew she did that and didn’t agree with it, but since my friend options were limited, I never stood up to her or defended those she would bully.

Inevitably, one day it was my turn. While in the library, she walked up to me and started threatening me. I was confused and asked her why she was acting like that. She responded by pushing me. I tried to leave, but she pushed me again; this time with such force that I tripped over a cart and my head hit a table. At the emergency room I received four stitches on the side of my head.

I have other, less dramatic stories about girls making fun of me because of awkward grooming issues, like knowing when to shave my legs and how to pluck my eyebrows. These comments not only injured my self-esteem, but they led to an overwhelming feeling of isolation and suicidal thoughts.

While my parents obviously knew about the bullying incident in the library, how would they know about the smaller, less severe but more frequent episodes? Like many kids, I didn’t want to tell my parents because I was ashamed and embarrassed. Instead, I acted like nothing was wrong so they wouldn’t notice. So how can parents help their children if they don’t know what’s happening in the hallways?

Worried about elementary school bullying? Read this article.

Know your child’s popularity.
According to a UCLA psychology study, popular students are more likely to become bullies, and students often become more popular if they bully others.

It seems silly to pay attention to things like popularity, but if you know where your child is on the social popularity scale, you can look for signs of being a bully or a victim.

For instance, if your child isn’t in the popular crowd, it’s important to get a sense of how he or she feels about that. If your child isn’t happy with his or her friend circle, look for signs he or she might be bullying others or be a victim of bullying.

Pay attention to behavioral changes.
Talk to your child about his or her friends and the other kids in school. Get an idea whether your child feels like he or she fits in.

If your child was once confident and starts to lose self-esteem, ask about their friends. Is your child trying to change social circles or is your child happy and satisfied with his or her social life?

If your child won’t speak to you about it, talk to his or her friends’ parents to see if you can get an idea of what’s going on. If that’s not an option, share this woman’s story about middle school bullying—it might spark a conversation and help you find out how your child is doing.

Look for physical signs of bullying. 
If your child is being physically bullied, it won’t be difficult to spot the signs: bruises, scratches, ripped or unusually dirty clothing. But if your child is being verbally bullied, it will be harder to recognize the signs.

Many children who are bullied will start feeling physically ill before returning to a place where they have been bullied. I used to get horrible stomachaches before going to the classes where students would tease me. If your child starts having more instances of upset stomachs, headaches, colds, etc., ask if kids are making fun of them. They might not expect that question and are likely to give you an honest answer.

Understand that bullying can happen anywhere: in the hallways between classes, at the desks before class starts, on the walk home from school, even—in my case—in the library with teachers looking on. Recognize the signs and reach out to your child before it takes a toll.

Learn more about bullying and how to help your child develop a healthy self-esteem in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book series, available on Amazon.


How to Address Bullying in Elementary School

October 13, 2015

By Jessica Vician

How to Address Bullying in Elementary School | During National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, take some time to talk to your child about these bullying symptoms. | A group of children whisper and give dirty looks to another girl.

Every October during National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, we focus on how to prevent bullying and how to address it when it happens.

But in order to prevent and address the behavior, we need to understand it. What is bullying? According to this guide from the Department of Education, it is “when a person hurts, embarrasses, or frightens another person on purpose over and over again.”

Every parent can agree that we don’t want our children bullied and we don’t want our children to be bullies. But how can we prevent both parts of this behavior? When is it bullying and when is it just young kids working out social differences?

One challenge in bullying prevention is teaching a child to stand up for him or herself but also teaching them when to seek help from an adult. We don’t want to coddle our children or encourage “tattling,” but we do want them to resolve bullying when it happens so that it doesn’t have a long-term effect on their emotional or social well-being.

You can set a good foundation with your child by watching this “Happy to Be Me” segment from Sesame Street together. Talk to your child about whether he or she has felt like Big Bird.

  • Has your child been made fun of because of how he or she looks or talks?
  • Has your child been left out of activities intentionally?

Then ask your child what he or she did when that happened. Use the discussion tools that accompany this clip. By learning how your child dealt with a previous issue, you can determine if you need to step in and talk to the school or if your child seems to be handling it well.

Remember that this is just an initial discussion. Even if you discover your child faced bullying and handled it well, you still need to check in regularly to ensure the bullying doesn’t continue and his or her self-esteem is developing.

For more information on how to address bullying at the elementary school level, pick up the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, available on Amazon. 


Resolutions: Social Well-Being

January 6, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

New Year's Resolutions: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical health, academic success

This month, YOU Parent is featuring a series on making resolutions that address a child’s four core needs for success in life: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and academic development. Visit us each Tuesday in January for the latest article addressing each of these needs. 

Just as important as tending to your son or daughter's physical needs is the need to nurture their social and emotional lives. Being conscious of our own reactions and interactions with others is the first model of discipline that he or she will see. That's why among any of the other New Year's resolutions we can make as parents, one of them should be to monitor our own behavior so as to educate our children to become better communicators by being aware of their emotions in different social settings.

It begins when they are just infants. You may have heard how important it is to hold your baby, and the positive effects of a caregiver's affectionate touch. It lets the baby know he or she is in a safe and nurturing environment, providing stability. As a parent, you can begin to instill social skills as well. One way is to use real words and not "baby talk" when responding to your child. Using appropriate tones and corresponding facial gestures are important, too. For example, if you are asking a question, your words will ring a certain way, and your face will show the expression.

As your son or daughter achieves other milestones, it is important to integrate valuable social lessons into daily interactions. Instead of avoiding situations where you know he or she will have a difficult time such as sharing a toy or eating at a restaurant, create these opportunities to point out why he or she should behave a certain way. Also, tell him or her it is alright to feel emotional at times, and that there are constructive ways to express themselves. My youngest daughter's kindergarten teacher created a "feelings wheel" where she can turn the dial to a face to express her emotions such as happy, sad, scared, and so on. We can then talk about the emotion and find a way to move the dial back to "happy" together.

Modeling Positive Behavior
In some families it may seem acceptable to yell at each other. Some disagreements may escalate into screaming matches where no one wins, and everyone involved feels worse. As parents, this is another behavior we can resolve to change. By yelling, we are communicating that we are not in control of a situation. Many times it also makes the person being screamed at feel threatened or humiliated. These are all emotions we would never want our children to feel outside of the home, so this social skill is definitely one to pay close attention to. In recent years, there have been more reported cases of bullying, which may be the result of a volatile home environment that involved yelling.

As part of a parent's resolution to show more positive behaviors in social situations, we can take a step back during a conflict and reflect on how to react. Children are keen to their surroundings even if it appears they are not paying attention. They can pick up on cues such as tension in your voice and certain behaviors. If your body language expresses calm and contentment, your son or daughter will mirror that. The same goes for when you are anxious and angry. Keeping your cool also keeps your head clear. For children, decluttering the mind is vital when learning new concepts at school.

Paying attention to the types of words you use is also critical. If you are used to saying things like, "I hate when..." modify it to "I prefer when…" Instead of just stating a problem, which the world is full of, try providing an alternate solution instead. Your son or daughter will understand that they too can resolve problems instead of just sit around and complain about them.

Social Media and Friendships
Although the name "social media" implies a large network of friends all discussing fun topics, it is a far cry from that. Let your son or daughter see your positive online posts and refrain from going on rants about people. Show them that putting people "on blast" is the equivalent of yelling and that it will not make him or her feel any better nor will it resolve any problems. Let your behavior model a respect and appreciation for different cultures and people.

Resolve to nurture your friendships this year. Show your son or daughter what a friend's behavior is supposed to look like. Be kind and thoughtful. Call your friends to see how they are doing. Visit a friend who may be experiencing a tough time. These actions will encourage them to foster friendships, and not just on social media, but at school and in the neighborhood.

The social skills and emotional behaviors you model for your son or daughter today carry over to their early schooling to their college years, and finally, to their workplace tomorrow. You will be proud to see your son or daughter as a successful, well-rounded person who appreciates differences and is kind to others.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.


5 Ways to Address Bullying

October 15, 2014

By Sunny Chico

5 Ways to Address Bullying | A teen son sits glumly while his parents argue, modeling negative behavior.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and while I’m saddened that this issue even exists, I’m glad that we have the month to focus on preventing this terrible behavior that affects our children so deeply.

As parents, one of the first ways to address this problem is to think about what values we model at home. We must demonstrate how to communicate respectfully, whether it’s with our children, our partners, or with our own family and friends. We must also remember that the behaviors we allow in the home are behaviors that our children will practice out in the world. While this awareness can help us guide and shape our children in a way that can prevent bullying later in life, we can’t always prevent it at first. All we can do is deal with it as best as we know how.

If you ever learn that your child is bullying or being bullied:

  1. Talk to your child. Try to understand the situation.
  2. Seek assistance from the teacher. Find out what the teacher has observed and what he or she recommends.
  3. Review the school bullying policy. Many schools are legally obligated to follow their stated bullying policy exactly as written.
  4. Work with the school to make an action plan. Determine what steps will be taken, what the ideal outcomes are, and when to assess progress.
  5. Sometimes, it may be best to call the other child’s parents and say, “I need your help.” You should make this discussion as positive as possible, and not angry or negative. Let them know what is happening. Tell them, “My son told me about this today, and I was wondering if I could seek your help with it.” 

We all want the best for our children and want to protect them from any pain or heartbreak, but so often the best protection—and prevention—is to be a positive role model for them.


How can I tell if my child is being bullied?

October 2, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I tell if my child is being bullied? | A mother hugs her son.

Question: As a parent, how can I tell if my son is being bullied? Are there signs I can easily recognize?

Answer: This is a great question, as it can be difficult to know when your child is being bullied at school or in daycare. Ideally, your son will tell you if he thinks he is being bullied or if other kids are being mean to him. Unfortunately, though, many children don’t communicate these feelings to their parents, which makes it more difficult for you to help them.

If you suspect your son might be the victim of bullying, first try asking him about it. Ask him what his most and least favorite parts of school or daycare are. If his least favorite parts include the social activities, like recess or lunch, ask him why he doesn’t like them. You might find your answer there.

If that approach doesn’t work, you can look for the following signs of difficulty:

  • tries to avoid school, daycare, or other social activities
  • won’t talk about friends 
  • sudden drop in grades
  • low energy or no motivation
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of interest in activities
  • rapid mood swings

If you notice your son is demonstrating any of these signs, speak to his teacher or daycare manager to see if he or she has noticed bullying or any other unusual behavior. Then you can work together to remedy the situation.

For more information on addressing bullying and fostering your child’s emotional and social well-being, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set, which addresses these concerns from birth through high school and beyond.

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