Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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How can I help my child choose better friends?

June 13, 2017

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I help my child choose better friends?

Question: My daughter starts 4th grade in the fall. Some of her friends from this past year were bad influences—they made fun of kids in the class and would pressure my daughter to play tricks on those kids during recess. I want to start next year fresh by helping her choose better and nicer friends. How can I do that when I'm not there?

Answer: Just as with adult friendships, sometimes children end up with friends who don't share their moral code or treat others the way they do.

Assuming the friends from this past school year were mostly school friends—that is, your daughter won't see them much this summer—you have the opportunity to use the time away to teach her what qualities to value in a friendship and make new friends this summer.

For instance, look at your daughter's friends who you feel are good influences. What characteristics do they possess? Are they kind, compassionate, trustworthy, considerate? Talk to your daughter about those types of qualities, using her friends as examples.

"Angel always thanks me after we have her over for dinner. That shows she is grateful for our food and our company. What are you grateful for?"

In the same manner, you can start a conversation about negative qualities. Share a story from your childhood when someone treated you unkindly and relate it back to the friends who make fun of classmates.

"When I first got glasses, there were boys in my class who told me I was ugly and called me 'four eyes.' They hurt my feelings and made me cry. Did anyone in your class this year get glasses? Did anyone make fun of them? Instead of hurting their feelings, you can tell them you like their glasses and are happy they can see better!"

Then you can talk about what to do when classmates make fun of other people and talk about those values and traits that we want in our friends.

Use the summer to reinforce her friendships with positive people and when she starts back at school, remind her of the qualities we all want in our friends. If she finds her way back to the friends from this past year, make an extra effort to have these conversations.

Tags :  elementarysocialbullying
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Fame-seeking on Social Media

March 28, 2017

By Sunny Chico and Jessica Vician

Teenage Fame-seeking on Social Media | As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

There are many reasons we need to pay attention to our teenagers on social media, and a prominent one is bullying. There have been multiple times when criminals have aired their crimes on Facebook Live, like the recent rape of a 15-year-old girl and a the torture of a special needs 18-year-old man.

What made these people—some of whom are teenagers—want to broadcast it for friends and strangers to see? 

Social and Emotional Development
Social media plays a strong role in teenage social and emotional development.

Unlike television, where you just sit and watch, social media is an active medium. Teens are chatting, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. They're having unsupervised conversations with each other, which can have a lasting effect on their development.

Knowing what teens are doing on social media, we have to ask, "What could motivate these kids to broadcast rape and torture of teenagers?"

Fame
The answer? The need for fame.

I read a great article that talked about teenagers and the value of fame. The researcher noted that in the past 50 years, popular television shows have promoted friendship, family, and community. Think about Friends, Happy Days, and The Cosby Show.

But in the past 10 years, television has changed. Now popular television promotes fame. It's reality TV—American Idol, The Voice, Real Housewives, the Kardashian's. Even Hannah Montana, which your kids might have watched when they were younger, is a normal teenager by day but a pop star by night.

The value of fame is everywhere for our teens, so it's only natural that they seek it in a place that is very public and yet very private—social media.

Internet fame is the most accessible fame that teens have access to. A well-hashtagged Instagram post, a YouTube video or tutorial that goes viral, even a smart, witty tweet might get retweeted by someone famous.

It feels great to have someone—let alone hundreds, thousands, even millions—recognize and appreciate you, what you said, or what you did. And in some cases, just getting noticed is enough—like in the example of the teens and 20-something who broadcast the torture of their 18-year-old peer on Facebook Live.

Those kids were noticed for doing something horrible. But they were noticed, which might be all that mattered to them. For kids who aren't getting enough attention from their parents, often times negative attention is better than no attention at all.

How to help
So how do we prevent our kids from seeking negative attention or seeking fame online?

We don't need to keep them off of social media. After all, when used well, it's a great communication outlet for them and a way to connect outside of school with peers they might not spend time with in school.

But we do need to nurture our kids offline—in real life—to make sure they are receiving the attention, the understanding, the love, and the pride from us that they need so they don't go seeking it online, and especially in a negative way.

Share affection
You can start by showing your kids love. If your daughter plays basketball, go to the games and give her a specific compliment afterward, like, "You did a great job finding teammates who were open and passing to them. I'm really proud of you—you're a great team player."

If your son is on student council, ask about the meetings and if he is on a committee. Compliment him on his leadership skills and being brave enough to speak up to help shape the school.

Even if your kids aren't involved in extracurriculars, compliment them on what you love most about them. Maybe it's their compassion for their peers, or how they help you clean up after dinner. Specific compliments, aside from "I love you," go a long way to help them feel loved and truly noticed.

Our kids learn from us. They learn to speak, smile, even frown from watching us at a young age, and that continues as they get older.

Be respectful
Treat your friends with respect, and avoid talking poorly about others, especially around your kids.

Refrain from engaging in negative posting on your social pages as well, as you want to continue to model positive behavior.

Watch better TV
Watch television shows that promote friends, family, and community—not fame. If you must watch shows that promote fame, watch them together and talk about what the people are doing. If it's The Voice, focus on the talent instead of criticizing. If it's the Kardashian's, focus on their familial bond, or talk about why negative behavior is good for TV but not for real life. 

Talk to the school
If you're worried that your teen is spending too much time on social media, is being a bully online or is being bullied, think about what you can do to help. For example, if your teen is spending too much time on social media, find a school sport or club that your teen would like and encourage them to join. Reroute their need for socialization to offline activities.

If your teen is being bullied, talk to the school about how to address the bullying. Teachers and counselors can help you take action.

It starts with you
Remember, you are your child's first teacher. Just as you taught them how to talk, you can teach them how to find confidence and pride in themselves in the real world. By nurturing their emotional needs, they won't be as likely to hurt others in social settings—whether that's in person or online.

And while everyone seeks a little bit of fame, if you show them your love and pride for them, they might be less likely to seek it online from strangers. All it takes is a little extra love. 

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Parent Engagement in Elementary School

November 22, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in Elementary School | How to guide your child through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support. | A father plays cards with his son and daughter.

As your child begins elementary school, your role as your child’s primary teacher transitions to his or her official teacher at school. While the school will now lead your child’s formal education, you still need to guide him or her through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support.

Here are some ways you can practice parent engagement while your child goes through elementary school.

Encourage Friendships
As your child starts spending most of the day at school, he or she will primarily be socializing with peers. According to Sunny P. Chico, author of YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, “These early friendships teach your child how to interact with the world.”

Encourage your child to develop friendships with classmates and children from the neighborhood by arranging play dates outside of school, like inviting a classmate over on the weekend. Teach your child what being a good friend means: being kind and considerate of each other’s feelings.

Listen to Your Child
Think back to your childhood. Are there times when you tried to tell your parents something but they didn’t listen or didn’t understand the severity of what you were telling them?

Sometimes when our children reach out to us about problems, we dismiss them as trivial childhood quarrels or tattling. But it’s important for your child to know that he or she can express an issue and you will hear it. Listen to what your child is saying, ask questions about how he or she feels, and think about whether it might be a symptom of a greater problem, like bullying. If so, contact the teacher and work together to resolve the situation.

Eat Healthy
What are the typical breakfasts, snacks, and dinners your family eats during the week? If your refrigerator and pantry have healthy foods and limited junk or processed foods, your family is more likely to eat healthy, have better nutrition, and perform better at school and work.

Make slow transitions to healthier food. For example, the next time you’re at the store, instead of buying potato or tortilla chips, buy crunchy carrots and hummus to dip them in. Small changes can help your child transition to a healthier diet over time.

Address Struggles and Developmental Delays
If your child struggles with learning in any capacity, speak with his or her teacher about being tested for special education services. These services can range from speech therapy to additional help for disorders like autism or dyslexia.

By working with the teacher to determine what struggles your child is having in school, you will find out if there is a greater issue that you and the school can address to help your child learn and succeed. If so, start the process for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that defines what services, programs, or accommodations your child will receive from the school.

For a mother’s story about her son’s experience with an IEP, click here for Part I and here for Part II.

As your child grows, you will still nurture his or her social and emotional well-being, physical health, and academic development. Your role will change, but you are still your child’s strongest advocate.

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3 Small Acts of Kindness Your Child Can Do to Prevent Bullying

October 11, 2016

By Jessica Vician

3 Small Acts of Kindness Your Child Can Do to Prevent Bullying

What have you and your child done to stop bullying this month?

We’re midway through National Bullying Prevention Month, and while some schools have organized events to educate students on preventing and reporting bullying, not everyone has this programming. As a parent, you can challenge your child to take small actions for the rest of the month that will help him or her not only prevent bullying but also promote kindness.

STOMP Out Bullying, an organization dedicated to reducing and preventing bullying and cyberbullying, has created a list of activities, summarized below, that your child can do each week for the rest of the month to help with the bullying problem.

  1. Make friends with someone you don’t know.
    This week, encourage your child to start a conversation at school with a peer that he or she doesn’t know, or to invite that person to sit with your child at lunch. This small outreach helps your child expand his or her social circle and prevents both your child and the peer from feeling isolated and lonely.
  2. Stand up for someone.
    Next week, talk to your child about standing up for someone when they are being disrespected, made fun of, or physically bullied. It can be as simple as stepping into a conversation where a peer is being disrespected and saying, “Let’s keep it respectful here,” or telling someone to stop making fun of someone else. In physical bullying situations, advise your child on what to do—it might be safest for him or her to get an adult to interfere so that your child doesn’t get hurt.
  3. Promote positivity.
    For the final week of the month, send your child to school with colorful Post-its with positive messages, like, “You’re smart,” or “Thanks for being nice to me,” or “You make me smile.” Your child can hand them out to fellow classmates or even post them anonymously on people’s lockers. This tiny action will bring a little joy to everyone’s day.

You can also encourage your child’s school administration and/or teachers to promote the message by sending them a link to PACER’s classroom activities or organize an event in your community yourself.

Is your child’s school participating in National Bullying Prevention Month? Tell us what they’re doing in the comments below.

Tags :  emotionalbullying
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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.

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