Back to school brings a lot of questions from parents wondering how to help get their kids off to a good start socially. To address a few common questions and scenarios, please help me welcome Dr. Kortney Peagram and her team at Bulldog Solution, a provider of student and teacher programs that aim to eradicate bullying through social boldness, kindness, and connection.
Parent: My son knows that bullying and being mean is unacceptable in our home, but I recently found out that he was involved with a group of kids that were teasing and picking on another child. I'm mortified and confused, as he is not usually like tha. What do I do?
Bulldog Team: We understand how this must be hard and probably baffling, especially since this goes against your guiding principles at home. Spend some time talking to your son, and also listening. Without judgement, ask him why he is picking on this boy. Listen to him and try to understand how he got involved. It could be peer pressure or fear he is going to get picked on if he does not engage. Then ask how he would feel if the group of friends targeted him. Also ask him how he would feel if someone targeted you.
The idea is to have him see the impact of his actions by putting himself in this kids shoes - how would you feel? how would you act? how would you think of yourself? Ask him what he can do to help the boy that's being targeted.
This is also a great time to talk about peer pressure and friendship. Use your son's strengths and qualities to share how he can be a leader - a strong, kind, compassionate leader. Talk about what you expect of him without shaming him. Share a time where you hurt someone and how it made you feel. The goal is to have him feel the pain of the other child.
It's import to teach kids about empathy. It's not a one time conversation with your son. You need to continue to develop his empathy and compassion. Ask him each day what he will do to be a kind, strong leader. We wish you the best!
Parent: We recently moved and me teen is starting at a new school. How do I help ease the nerves and make the transition as easy on my child as possible?
Bulldog Team: Making a big move to a new town can be a stressful situation for anyone just in and of itself. Coupled with the fears of starting at a brand new school where every face is unfamiliar, students feel pressured to want to fit in with others, and worrying about making friends can be added sources of stress and anxiety for a child. Here are some tips to help you help your daughter and to ease your own worries over her.
Talk about thoughts and feelings. Often the importance of a simple "How was your day?" or "What are you looking forward to?" is greatly undervalued, but these types of questions in addition to asking your daughter questions specific to starting high school, fitting in, making friends, etc. can allow you to better understand what stresses her out and to come up with positive ways to help ease her (and your own) anxiety. Continue this discourse on a regular basis just as a daily check in to see how she is doing.
Take time to research clubs/organizations/sports/other co-curricular activities offered at her new school where she can connect with others who share a passion or interest. This offers students an excellent chance at making friends and fitting in. The best advice for your daughter is to get involved as soon as possible!
Reassure your daughter that, while she might be new to her school, many other students are entering high school with very similar fears and she will be thoroughly surprised to find out how much other students also want to make friends and fit in.
It's important to stress that going into the situation with an open mind and a sense of optimism for the future will ultimately set your daughter up for success in the long run. Say a few positive affirmations such as "I'm excited to start high school," "I will make friends," "I will have a great school year," etc. in order to help your daughter establish greater confidence going into the next chapter of her life. Hope this helps! Wishing your daughter the best!
Parent: My kids are polite and well mannered, but I want them to be kinder to each other. How can I do that?
Bulldog Team: I have 3 suggestions. One is have your kids make a list of approximately 10 ways to show kindness. Then post it on the fridge. Every time one of your kids does something on the list, check it off and write the child's name.
Second, at the dinner table, ask each child what they did that was kind and what someone did for them that was kind. That really opens up the discussion and changes the tone for dinner, and beyond.
Third, on a wall in the home, post words of affirmation and kind words and use them in your vocabulary frequently. That's a great way to start off to increase kindness in your household.
Have other questions? Bulldog Solution has answered several other questions on their blog here. Check it out!
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