Our guest blogger is mother of three and my high school friend, Dr. Maribel Gonzalez. She is a clinical psychologist specializing in bullying prevention and social skills training. Maribel shares with Ay Mama! 5 tips to give your child if he/she is getting bullied. Maribel is also the creator of the Girl Empowerment Training program which helps develop healthy self esteem and empower girls to develop their full potential.
I have to admit my memories of my teenage years are -for the most part- cherished memories. I remember having lots of friends to hang out with, being appreciated by most, liking school and having lots of fun. Even though this is the experience of the overwhelming majority of preteens and teens, research shows that 18 out of every 100 kids in the US are not so fortunate as a result of encountering bullying behavior. They feel sad, lonely, anxious, disconnected and dislike school. As a mother of three boys, I am incredibly worried that my kids become part of this 18th percentile and I promised myself, seven years ago, that I would do all I could to raise awareness and create a culture of respect for my children.
My task has not been easy. I have heard comments such as: bullying is just part of growing up, this is just one more hot topic, they just need to learn to live with it, etc, but every time a child comes up to me and says something like: "I am having a lot of trouble with the kids at school and what your saying is really helping me," I feel like the effort is worthwhile.
Let me start by saying that there is a lot of misunderstanding related to what bullying is, and what it is not, but I can tell you this: if your child is being subjected to bullying behavior, where he is intentionally and repeatedly made fun of and feels he cannot defend himself, you as a parent can make a difference if you are able to provide the appropriate support and guidance. What follows is a set of guidelines/techniques that we suggest you discuss with your child and which may help your child to face and successfully manage such a situation:
1. Tell your child to be assertive and then go to a place where they feel safe. They should look at the child who bullied him in the eyes while saying something like "I really don't care." Most times a short comeback will work, but make sure he/she doesn't get involved in a power struggle with the bully.
2. Tell him/her to identify two allies at school: an adult and a friend that he can turn to immediately for help and support. If children identify allies before the situation happens, they have a greater chance of getting help when they need it.
3. Develop strategies to improve his/her self esteem, such as getting involved in activities that he is good at and in which he/she has the potential to shine.
4. Encourage him/her to get together with kids that have his/her same interests so as to develop a bigger group of friends. Kids who bully look for children who are isolated since they are an easier target.
5. Encourage communication about the subject as early as age 4. Teach your child what bullying is, ask him/her about bullying in school and about what teachers do about it. Also encourage him/her to tell you if the situation comes up.
As a mother, I understand that we all want to bully-proof our children because it would be too painful to see them suffer. Even though bully proofing is nearly impossible, we can provide our kids with the skills they need to manage bullying behavior effectively while contributing to a culture of respect for all children.
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