Parents: 5 Tips to Prevent Bullying

November 15th through 19th is Anti-Bullying Week—a week meant to raise awareness about the prevalence and dangers of bullying across the globe. Roughly 20% of U.S. children and teens in school report being bullied, with 41% of these students indicating that they expect to be bullied again. And these numbers are only growing. With social media (Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, etc.) increasingly becoming children and teens’ primary form of communication, bullying is easier than ever…because why do it in person when you can hide behind a computer screen?

If you’re a parent, these statistics aren’t exactly comforting, especially when you consider the effects of bullying. More than physical harm, victims of bullying are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school.

So, what, if anything, can you do to make a difference? Here are 5 tips to get you started:

  1. Ask questions.

Some kids are more communicative than others, but either way, asking your child about their day can go a long way in helping you (and them) identify unsafe people in their midst. Ask, then listen intently to what they have to say. Learn their friends’ names, even the classmates you’ve never met. Stay mindful of patterns, and remember: Bullying isn’t just throwing punches. Verbal assaults and/or antagonistic behavior can be just as harmful to a child’s wellbeing.

  1. Teach your kids how to respond.

Teaching your children emotional intelligence—how to manage their emotions and identify and relate to the emotions of others—is a great way to prepare your child for abusive situations of any kind. Encourage your child to call out bullying when they see it, to ask questions, and on the flip side, to notice the effects of their own actions on peers. For example, when approached by a bully, teaching your child to respond, “Are you being mean to me right now? That is not okay with me,” and then to confide in an adult is much more effective than teaching them to ignore the bully (whose behavior might only escalate).

  1. Set limits.

As we mentioned, cyberbullying is on the rise and can be more difficult to detect than other forms of bullying. This is where limiting the amount of time your child spends on social media is key. Bullies often know no bounds, so helping your child create their own by “signing off” after a certain amount of time sends the message that they need to have boundaries even when others don’t—even when it’s uncomfortable. Also, having “screen-free” hours will give you the chance to connect with your child and monitor their communication as needed.

  1. Be willing to intervene.

Nobody wants to be a helicopter parent, but when it comes to bullying, the “hands off” approach probably isn’t the way to go. If your child is expressing that someone is repeatedly picking on them, first try to understand the situation and your child’s point of view. Then, if possible, show them how to address the situation independently. If it’s clear that the bullying behavior is too severe or will continue, take action. Your child needs to know that you are their greatest advocate and first line of defense.

  1. Emphasize kindness.

This year, the theme of Anti-Bullying Week is One Kind Word, inspired by the idea that positive connections fostered through kindness can break down barriers and make a big difference for someone facing loneliness (Coincidentally, World Kindness Day also falls in November!). And this idea couldn’t be more true. Studies show that kindness increases our sense of connectivity with others, reducing loneliness and enhancing both our mood and interactions. It really is contagious!

So, perhaps the best way you can help prevent bullying is to make sure your child doesn’t become a bully themselves. Create a culture of kindness in your home, and apply the Golden Rule as often as you can in both speech and practice.

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Staying Abreast of What’s Best for Your Mental Health

August is National Breastfeeding Month, and it’s necessary to take a look at how it can affect one’s mental health, both positively and sometimes negatively. As a mother, we want to do what’s best, but does that always mean the breast?

What do the Experts Say?

For babies, breastfeeding is recommended by the American Pregnancy Association as the most nutritionally balanced meal as it helps protect against common infections and increases the survival rate in the first year of life. But, how does it benefit the mother? From increased confidence and self-esteem to lowering the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, there are many benefits to breastfeeding.

Additionally, there are two hormones produced when breastfeeding: oxytocin and prolactin. These two hormones promote stress reduction, positive feelings and lessen the risk of postpartum depression. The American Psychological Association reports that 1 in 7 will be diagnosed with what is otherwise known as the “baby blues,” and breastfeeding is a great way to combat this disease that has affected many new mothers. 

The Pressure to Breastfeed.

On the flip side, can the pressure to breastfeed exclusively affect your mental health? Psychologists and real-life moms say YES! When it comes to what is best for the baby, a healthy mother takes precedence.

“Breastmilk does not care for, nurture and bond with the baby. A mother does. I am not arguing the health benefits of breastfeeding. Those are known facts. I am talking about the part that just isn’t talked about enough: a mom’s mental health.”

Carrie Bruno, a lactation specialist, writes in a Today’s Parent article

Viable options are available now more than ever to help supplement and dissolve the feeling of inadequacy, stress, or pure exhaustion. When the pains and strains of exclusively breastfeeding feel overwhelming, it may be time to take a step back and make a new plan. In the end, you have to let go of the societal pressures and do what is best for you.

Moms, this is your decision!

We recommend you surround yourself with supportive people. Discuss options with your doctor and lactation specialist, join a support group online or in-person, and most importantly, trust your instincts!

If you think you may be struggling with postpartum depression, please reach out to someone that can help – schedule an appointment with our team or call or text the Postpartum Support International helpline at 1-800-944-4773

Our Resilient Children Need Healthy Parents

As we trudge (seems an appropriate verb, some days) through the first months of a new year, we’re still blanketed by many of our old stresses. The environment is hard for mothers and fathers who have seen their routines and schedules materially disrupted.  And so I’m led to remind you all – THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT. So, what in the world do I mean by those words, exactly?

I mean…. Breathe. Pause. Be patient. We’re still in the midst of the pandemic. Our socio-political landscape remains volatile. Unemployment won’t be a quick fix either. Further, our children are still challenged with the uncanny mixture of in-person vs. remote class learning.  The point is that we have a chance to set our expectations properly, for the long term, so we can be the best parents we can be for our children. So, to be direct, I encourage you to settle in, accept this new normalcy and stop waiting for things to be “normal” again. Our kids are resilient and they need us to be well strong and healthy! 

UNPLUG

If you are unbalanced and unwell as a mother or father, it makes sense that you won’t be fit to best care for your children and healthily guide them through these rough waters. One option we all have from time to time is to unplug, whatever that means for you. And do it without guilt! Not always easy as a parent, I know… But the fact is we are all juggling so much and every person must have a healthy path to recharge and reset. Just do so with open communication… but taking the necessary “me time” is a MUST!

POSITIVITY IS A CHOICE

This is the one which sometimes hits me between the eyes, figuratively speaking. Specifically, we all have the ability to choose where our mental + emotional focus lie – in the negative or the positive. The world isn’t going to change, but where I spend my energy can, and I want to be sure to spend it well. For a real-life example, I have a high-stress career which I absolutely love with all of my soul. One trade-off is that for several years of my young son’s life I didn’t see him very much. A little bit in the morning, and an hour or two before bedtime in the evenings at best. Ugh. But today, as so much of our lives (including my practice!) is remote/virtual, I’m blessed to be with my son at home more, knowing he’s just in the other room. This is precious time to me and I’m choosing to find the GRATITUDE in it.

BOUNDARIES ARE OK

This idea relates to my previous thoughts on unplugging. I’m giving you room, right here, right now – to set healthy boundaries when and where you need them. One boundary may be taking the room to be imperfect. To make mistakes. To get bad news. Please let me remind you – SETBACKS DO NOT EQUAL FAILURE. Setbacks do not equal failure. I said it twice because I’m making a point. And as always, when considering your partner and loved ones, keeping open communication is healthy when defining what your boundaries are, but self care cannot be understated these days.

Self care tips for parents

I hope you took even a bit of encouragement away from this article – I know firsthand how hard parenting in this environment can be. But I thank you for being part of the SouthEnd journey!