Why You Might Not Know it if Your Kid's Being Bullied

So your   child tells they’re getting picked on. Congratulations, you’re one of the lucky parents. While this is definitely upsetting information, you are very fortunate that they feel comfortable telling an adult, confiding in you. The reality is that many kids experiencing bullying are too scared or too ashamed to speak up. So how do you know if your kid is one of these silent victims? The situation may worsen as you wait for them to speak up (which may never happen), so it’s up to you to look for the signs.

 What are the signs of bullying? They range from the physical—scratches, bruises, or indirect symptoms like head or stomach ache—to the psychological—sleep or appetite changes, disturbing or sad drawings or journal entries—to the social—loss of enthusiasm or isolation. Their academic performance may suffer. Their possessions may go missing. Any of these red flags on their own may not amount to much, but if you start seeing a pattern of several, pay attention. They may be unconsciously signaling to you that something’s wrong, or it may be a cry for help that they’re not sure how to voice.

Why is it so hard to speak up if you’re being bullied? The biggest reason seems to be fear of retaliation in the form of more bullying, or fear of being judged by adults or by peers. The tattle-tale stigma carries heavy weight for kids and can signal weakness and vulnerability to a bully. Your kid is probably ashamed and embarrassed that the bullying happened in the first place. They may feel helpless about the situation and not believe adult intervention will work or help. It’s also worth remembering that kids, especially adolescents, aspire to be more independent from adults and want to believe they can handle it on their own. All of these factors contribute to kids staying silent.

You sense something’s going on but they’re not telling. How to have the conversation? Practice these dos and don’ts of communication techniques:

Do ask simple, matter-of-fact questions. Don’t get emotional or reactive. Do listen, encourage, and affirm as they explain. Don't judge them or try to rationalize or minimize their experience.

OK, so they’ve told you the truth. Now what do you say and do?? Often this is the hardest part as each situation requires an individualized approach.

Thank them for their honesty and explain that bullying happens to lots of kids (maybe it even happened to you). It doesn't mean they're unlikeable or unloveable, it means they're up against another child whose own insecurities are guiding them.  Help your child problem-solve and role-play ways to find a friend and/or safe adult if the situation surfaces again. Encourage them not to fight back, but to instead tell the bully or aggressor to Stop, and if they don't, to immediately seek an adult.  And if need be, as a parent or adult who's aware of what's going on, don't hesitate to call or email any involved parent, teacher, or principle that can really help understand and put a stop to the aggression.  Just as kids can fear being tattle-tales, parents can fear being helicopter-parents.  Let's all get clear on the difference and not fear speaking up when it's called for.  



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Every Kid Needs SEL. But What is it?

Life Skills: Essential to navigating the  world successfully. More noticeable when they're absent than when they're functioning well. Something every parent hopes their child will develop with time.  But how exactly does this happen?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL for short) is a term used to describe the complex process by which we acquire skills to help us understand and manage our emotions. If you're feeling fuzzy about what this translates to in day-to-day life, it's helpful to think of the outcome of this process as a set of specific skills. CASEL, The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, has done just that. Their framework is being recognized by educators as essential to positive development in students. The following five core competencies are areas they've identified in which educators can focus and assess learning.  We can all think of times when we explained a basic reality or norm to our child that adults take for granted, but to them is new, confusing and mysterious--"Why can't I complain loudly about how I'm hungry while waiting for my food in a restaurant?" "Why should I avoid talking about the great time I had at Grandma's last weekend to my friend whose grandmother just passed away?" How can we help kids answer these questions themselves? How do our children develop into people whom we regard as emotionally and socially "competent" and ultimately, individuals that are successful at school, at home, and with peers? The answer is SEL. 

Self-awareness is how we perceive ourselves, our identity and our emotions. Self-management is how we deal with these emotions in regard to ourselves, in areas such as productivity, discipline, and organization. The extensions of these individual competencies are their social counterparts: social awareness, or how we perceive others, and relationship skills, or how we relate to others in areas such as engagement, communication, and conflict resolution. 

The fifth area of competency employs all the others and, for this reason, is the most complex. Responsible decision-making asks us to consider all the possible outcomes of a situation and evaluate them, reflecting on our needs and the needs of others, safety, ethics, and social norms among other things, to make the best choice. The ultimate goal of development is to be able to make good choices. We cannot always control what we experience, but we can control how we respond to it. When we do this well, we are successful. Social and emotional learning gives us the tools we will use throughout life to be successful people. 

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