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Serious Business of Bullying

If you are one of the lucky ones with kids who have never been bullied, it can help to be informed and help your child to be aware, prepared, and helpful to those in need. If your kids are directly affected already, here are some tips/thoughts that might be helpful. There are many resources and support groups out there. Seek help and know you are not alone! This is serious business.

Help your child avoid being bullied by teaching him how to cope. Teach your child the “CALM” way to avoid bullies:
Stay Cool if you get picked on, because if you react, the bully wins.
Assert yourself using a comeback skill. For example, use sense of humor, Dr. Borba suggests.
Look the bully in the eye. If you look more confident through your body language, you are less likely to get picked on.
Make your voice sound like you mean it. Don’t whine or pout—instead use a strong voice and turn and walk away.

Dealing with Bullies continues…

What Your Child Can Do

Even though your child may protest, you must tell his or her school about the bullying and work with the school to make sure it’s doing everything possible to protect your child. You can also help your child deal with bullies from the start by telling them to:

Deflect the bullying with humor.
Speak out—say, ‘Stop that. I don’t like it!”
Get friends to help. Ask them to stand up to the bully.

The most important thing for a child to remember is that he or she must tell an adult when the bullying starts. An adult can support and empower the child, and take the power away from the bully.

Teaching Boys to Cope with Feelings

Bullying can cause problems for your child at school—but what if your own son is the bully? Talking to your son about his emotions could be the key to understanding this behavior.

Harvard psychologist Dr. William Pollack, author of Real Boys’ Voices, says boys are desperate to reveal their true feelings. Many boys wear a “mask,” often hiding feelings of sadness, loneliness and vulnerability. Dr. Pollack says that, for many boys, self-worth is tied to their body image. They worry they are not masculine enough.

Parents don’t realize how they teach their boys to bury emotions. Simple phrases like “Big boys don’t cry” create a lifelong effect, according to Dr. Pollack. Many boys feel they can’t express their sadness, so instead they get angry.

Teaching Boys to Cope with Feelings continues…

Expressing Emotions

Dr. Pollack says that the “code” that goes along with being a boy includes traits such as being macho and never weak. Instead of repressing his sad feelings, though, you can encourage your son to express his emotions in a healthy way.

Give your son time for undivided attention and listening space.
Don’t prematurely push him to be independent.
Let him know that “real” boys and men do cry and speak.
Express your love as openly as you would to a girl.

Action Talk

Boys want to discuss their feelings, but they generally express themselves while engaged in another activity, such as fishing or drawing, Dr. Pollack says. He calls this “action talk.”

When you are talking to your son, you should:

Avoid teasing and shaming.
Share your own experiences.
Keep your statements brief.
Don’t press for fast responses.
Really listen when your son finally decides to talk.

Teaching Boys to Cope with Feelings continues…

If Your Son Is a Bully

The majority of schools have a zero-tolerance policy for bullies, but this can often lead to more violence. To help their sons, parents can take steps to find better ways to deal with their feelings.

If your son is a bully, teach him healthy ways to express pain.
Create safe, shame-free zones where your son can go to retreat and talk about his feelings.

Depression and Bullying

According to Dr. Pollack, “bad boys” are often “sad boys,” and bullies are often the most depressed. If you suspect your son might be depressed, watch out for these warning signs:

Increased impulsiveness and depleted mood
Increased withdrawal from relationships and problems in friendships
More angry outbursts and aggression
Increased risk-taking
New or renewed interest in drugs and alcohol

Dealing with Bullies

As kids go back to school after the summer break, they have a lot to think about, from new classes and teachers to extracurricular activities and seeing their friends again. But in addition to the excitement and nervousness of the new school year, some students also have a major fear on their minds—bullies.

Many children worry about not fitting in, especially because of the teasing and bullying that can go along with it. Intimidation and bullying can not only rob your son or daughter of self-confidence, it can become violent. Watch for warning signs that your child is the victim of a bully—and know how to help.

Dealing with Bullies continues…

According to statistics, 160,000 students miss one day of school each year because of bullying. Harvard psychologist Dr. William Pollack, author of Real Boys’ Voices, says boys who are bullied hide their feelings because they fear being humiliated, injured or even killed. Many are afraid of the violence they feel inside themselves and fear talking about it. The majority of schools have a policy of “zero tolerance” for bullies, but this can often lead to more violence.

But boys aren’t the only victims—and they’re not the only bullies. Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out, says girls are just as aggressive as boys, but they act out in much subtler ways. The effect of this “hidden aggression” is devastating to millions of girls but is often invisible to parents.

“Girls have a terrible reputation for being cruel, and there’s a reason why,” Rachel says. “They don’t feel comfortable showing their anger directly. In order to deal with their anger, they go and tell someone else or they do it in a very sly way. They push their feelings down, but invariably their feelings come out in very secretive or indirect ways. So many of them are sitting on that anger. [Girls] do not have the tools to engage in assertive, direct conflict where they can actually say what’s in their hearts to each other.”

Warning Signs

Your child might not tell you if he or she is being bullied at school. Look for these warning signs:

Acts withdrawn
Has unexplained injuries
Clothing is torn
Fears going to school
Has trouble sleeping
Mood changes
Stops talking about school
Finds excuses to miss school
Has new friends
Displays aggressive behavior at home (Sometimes if your child is being bullied, he or she will take it out on a sibling.)

Talking to Your Child

If you see the warning signs that indicate your child might be the victim of a bully, Rachel Simmons says there are ways for you to talk about what’s really going on at school.

Ask trigger questions in the third person. For example, ask your daughter, “How do girls treat each other in school?” or “How do you feel when you’re at school?” Remember, the most important action you can take is to listen to and hold your child.

How You Can Help

If your child is the victim of a bully at school, you should:

Take it seriously—don’t minimize the experience.
Keep an open dialogue with your child about the bullying.
Don’t assume the bullying has stopped if your child stops talking about it.
Give consistent advice.
Bolster your child’s self-esteem in other areas. Help them find an activity where they fit in.
Don’t go it alone. Find other parents whose children are being bullied and organize.
Remind your child what you like about him or her and encourage them to find a group of allies.
Contact your child’s school to report what is going on.

What Not to Do

If your son or daughter admits that they are being bullied, Rachel Simmons says you should:

Never tell them it’s a “normal phase.”
Avoid minimizing their problem.
Never tell them they are being oversensitive.
Never tell them that they are doing something to cause the bullying.
Never tell them that they must be joking

What Your Child Can Do

Even though your child may protest, you must tell his or her school about the bullying and work with the school to make sure it’s doing everything possible to protect your child. You can also help your child deal with bullies from the start by telling them to:

Deflect the bullying with humor.
Speak out—say, ‘Stop that. I don’t like it!”
Get friends to help. Ask them to stand up to the bully.

The most important thing for a child to remember is that he or she must tell an adult when the bullying starts. An adult can support and empower the child, and take the power away from the bully.

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Hug Your Family a Little Tighter Tonight

There’s something about the month of March. Not only did one of my dearest friends pass away but every few days I would hear of someone else who had suddenly lost their life. One dad of two had a heart attack while driving and drove into a lamppost. Another mom of three lost her battle to cancer. And, so on…  Of course we all know that no one lives forever on earth. Everyone’s days are numbered. But, this month more than ever it is striking a chord with me.

I’d really better make the most of my time. If I have a kind unspoken thought about someone then I’d better say it. If I have something to work through with someone then I’d better call them up. I’d better not waste time doing things that just don’t matter. I’d better make sure I live a worthy life. I should not let a day go by without telling my loved ones how important they are to me. And, if I have a dream, then no better time than the present to start making it a reality.

You always think you’ll have more time. You always think there will be a tomorrow or a next year. How would you start to live differently if you couldn’t take the future for granted? What would you do today so that you would have no regrets?

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“You Can’t Be Ten, I Won’t Allow it.”

You know that scene in the Steve Martin movie, “Father of the Bride”, where he is listening to his grown daughter announce she is in love and he looks at her and sees his little seven-year-old announcing her engagement? Well, it’s not as bad as all that but almost.

“You can’t be ten, I won’t allow it. You must stay an infant in my memory.” For some reason when I think of my daughters I remember them most vividly when they were 6 months, 4 years old, and 6 years old. We’d drop off my oldest at school and then to preschool for my middle daughter, and then back home for morning nap for the baby. I remember carrying the baby in carrier while I volunteered in my daughter’s classroom and pushing a double stroller up the hills of the LA Zoo. We’d have little picnics on the front lawn in our best dresses and hats and stroll down the cul-de-sac to visit the neighbor’s pot-bellied pig, Sukie. Ah, those were the days…

Or were there? It’s funny how I think so fondly of that time and yet I know that it was also one of the most difficult times of my life, as well. I would enjoy the moments but by the end of the day I would wait so anxiously for my husband to enter the house after his day at work and quicker than he could put down his bag and say “hello” I was out the door for a break. I didn’t even have any urgent place I had to be but just the thought of strolling around Target by myself or checking out produce at Vons without 3 kids in tow sounded like a dream. I needed that daily break. My days were physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. I enjoyed the privilege of being home to raise my kids but it was not an easy job.

As I look at my hardest days with my two teens and one preteen, I know that also one day I will look back and think fondly of this time when my house is empty of children. Even the most challenging times will fade in comparison to the fond memories. It’s going too quickly…someone stop the clock.

“You can’t be ten. I won’t allow it.”

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The “Word”

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“Happy Birthday to You…”

When my kids are ready to go to a birthday party, I always remind them to think about the birthday child and whether or not HE OR SHE is having a good time. Sometimes my kids can start to focus on themselves and whether or not they enjoy elements of the party but I like to help them to focus on the guest of honor and do their part to help the birthday child get the most out of the party. That means if they happen to be having pizza for lunch and that’s not my child’s favorite item for lunch then she sets that preference aside and is glad that their friend is having HER favorite item for lunch. I want my kids to learn to be happy when someone else is happy. I want them to think about the birthday child and make it about them.
It can be a little bit abstract but I also try to bring this attitude into the celebration of Christmas. What would make Jesus happy on His birthday? He may not enjoy a new bike or the latest new video game or care what we are having for lunch but what can we offer? Perhaps your youngest child can simply draw a picture to share. Or, your teen might like to write a letter showing His commitment and appreciation. Perhaps the entire family can bless a convalescent home with some caroling or share kindness with a lonely neighbor.
You know that everyone loves a birthday party! This year bake a cake together and sing your loudest “Happy Birthday” of the year! Throw a party for the biggest birthday of the all! Your children will get into all elements of the party as you share your excitement and vision with them. Keep your holiday focus on the One who makes it the most meaningful celebration of the year!
Merry CHRISTmas, all!
Enjoy,
Suzy
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Thankfulness

A man tells his friend that three weeks ago his aunt left him a $10,000 inheritance. His friend exclaims, “Wow, that’s a lot of money.” Then the man tells his friend that two weeks ago his cousin won the lottery and shared $25,000 with him. The friend is amazed and cannot believe the good luck. Then the man tells his friend that last week he himself won the lotto and gained a quarter of a million dollars. Puzzled at the sad face, his friend says, “That’s incredible! You’ve had such an amazing few weeks…Why the long face then?” The man replied, “This week…nothing!”

Isn’t that just how we, ourselves, are? We get so focused on today, this moment, that we cannot see the good in the overall picture. I know that I can get so caught up in the challenges of the moment that I can’t see the forest through the trees. I can’t see past the complaining child in front of me to remember that my child is a complete gift to me meant for my blessing and that every challenge and every situation is meant for our mutual benefit. Even in the hard times there is purpose and when I remember that, it’s much easier to accept and receive the challenges with the right attitude.

So, I’m thankful for the “normal” things this year still…for health, family, my home, good food, good friends, good schools, and the resources to have all we need and so much more. But, this year I am also thankful for the challenges, the hard times, the moments when my human eyes cannot see one ounce of good. I am thankful for even these parts of my life because I know that nothing good comes easy. I know that good can come out of the hardest moments. I know that there is no situation that is totally hopeless. And, I know that I have a good and secure future. Nothing can take that away from me and really, is there anything more precious in life than that?

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, but let’s never stop being thankful.

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Let’s Hurry Up and Have Quality Time

“Hurry up, Hope, it’s time for our quality time. We only have 10 minutes! If we don’t start now we are not going to have enough time!”
Have you ever said this to one of your children? I mean, after all, you did set aside the time and that was no easy feat! There are at least a dozen other things you could have been doing at that moment but you alloted the time especially to focus on your daughter. Why isn’t she rushing over and quickly pouring out her life to you so that you can move onto the next item on your checklist?
In the busyness of life, it’s easy to make time with our children just one more thing that we need to accomplish in the day. However, there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually get “quality” just because you have alloted a special time to it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s perfectly fine, good, and respectable to set aside this time but a little bit naive to assume that quality will magically flow out of that time just because we call it “quality time.” In this scenario, time is too limited and expectations are too high for it to really be all that we hope and want.
I like to think of our time with our children more in terms of “quantity of time” meaning having lots of time together integrated into the regular routine of their lives. The goal is to give lots of regular one-on-one time for each individual child in which quality will naturally flow instead of putting the expectation on merely one focused time in which quality must happen.
For one child, I make sure that I always drive her to school alone a few times a week giving her my undivided and affirming attention. For another daughter, I sit alone with her after school to debrief her day until she is out of words (remember girls have 14,000 to use up) and I still give her a teenager tuck-in at night. For another daughter, I drive her to allergy shots and violin lessons and use waiting time to connect about her hopes and dreams. Finally, for my last daughter, we do laps in the neighborhood while waiting for a sibling at a flute lesson while discussing the antics on the elementary school playground.
I never know when those golden moments are going to come but when they do I sure am glad that I was there. Some of the time, it may just seem uneventful or unmemorable, but my hope is that each of my children know they can count on me to be there and to be there often to catch quality left and right whenever and however it comes. And there is alot to be said for just the time together even in silence.
Be there for your kids and be there alot. Go for “quantity” and out of it will surely come “quality.” Let’s plan on this together!
Enjoy!
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Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones but Names Also Hurt Me

My nine-year-old daughter came home one day very upset that a student in her class was being teased, singled out, and made fun of every day in her classroom. She said that so many kids were being mean and she didn’t understand why. She really felt for the targeted boy but didn’t know how to help. She worried that if she stood up for him that she would then also become a target.

This began an important discussion about bullying in schools and how it’s not just the problem of the victim and bully but the responsibility of each individual to do something about it. Bullying behavior is wrong and should not be tolerated. Children need to learn how to manage these dangerous situations from whatever position they are in. Victims and witnesses need to band together and stand up for the right of every individual child to be treated with respect and dignity.

Here are some tips for those who encounter a bully, whether first hand or not:

1. Always stay in supportive groups when approaching bullies.

2. Look a bully in the eye and talk firmly and confidently. Say “Stop that! Back off!”

3. Talk loudly so the entire school (especially an adult) can hear you.

4. Involve an adult directly or write an anonymous factual note to an adult.

5. Be prepared to defend yourself if necessary.

6. Be open to befriending a reformed bully once they change their behavior.

It’s not a fun topic but one that needs to be addressed. Let’s all keep the perspective that bullying behavior should not be tolerated and that it’s important to stand up for ourselves and other innocent children being harrassed. In the end, of course, our hope is for a reformed bully but in the meantime, every child needs to learn how to manage any current volatile situations. Let’s continue discussions with our children and with each other.

Enjoy,

Suzy


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Back to School

Although this warm, humid weather is no indication of the impending Fall and beginning of school, we know by the Back-to-School supplies advertised everywhere that it is indeed time to think about getting back into the school routine. Time to gear up for new shoe sizes, freshly sharpened pencils, and selecting that first day of school outfit.

So, whether your child is headed for the beginning of kindergarten or her first day of junior high school, here are some tips to help make that first day as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

TIPS:

  1. When you shop for school supplies, clothing, or shoes and find that perfect deal, consider purchasing an extra set to have on hand. This can go a long way in sparing yourself an extra trip to the store later on in the year.
  1. Get your children involved by taking them shopping with you, packing up backpacks, laying out clothes and accessories, and setting their own alarm clocks to get up bright and early the morning after Labor Day. The more they can get involved the more they will feel confident about the beginning of a new year.
  1. Spend some time talking to your children about how they are feeling about a new year beginning. Discuss goals, anticipations, and especially fears so you can help equip them with tools. For example, to help cope with teasing on the playground, teach your children to respond with “Hmm…interesting…” Hard for a bully to know how to respond to that!
  1. Go to your local library or bookstore and get some books on the first day of  school. Talking about how your child can relate to a main character in a book can be a great way to get in touch with his/her own feelings and worries.
  1. Talk about the experience in a positive manner. Validate your child’s worries and fears but also bring to attention all the great things ahead. Share how you felt as a child anticipating each year of school and the positive experiences and life lessons associated with that.
  1. At the end of the first day, spend time sharing about each person’s days over a warm time around the table. Share “highs” and “lows” of the day and talk about what each person is looking forward to on the second day of school!

Here’s to a wonderful new school year! Like they always say, it goes too fast so take the time to savor each moment.

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