Seventy-five percent of bullied kids and teens have not told their parents. In fact, they haven’t told anyone. Most parents think they’ll know when and if their child becomes a victim of bullying. But the truth is, most don’t.
Other parents feel their child is not at risk. The child has a good group of friends and bullying has never been an issue. But bullying can affect anyone. Certain risk factors may increase someone’s chance of being bullied, but it can also happen to those who are considered popular, smart, athletic, and pretty. Bullying does not discriminate.
According to study results published by Stopbullying.gov, “About 49% of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas 30.8% reported bullying others during that time.” More kids experience bullying than most parents realize. The numbers reported in most studies, including the one referenced above, are likely to be lower than actuality since bullying is often not reported.
Victims of bullying who suffer in silence often do not get the help they may need to address, heal, and move forward. Depending on the individual and the severity of the bullying, if left unresolved, bullying can have serious consequences. Bullying can aggravate depression and increase suicide risk, cause anxiety and other mental health issues, lower self-esteem, and bring in other matters, which can carry on through adulthood.
It’s not uncommon to hear people say that bullying can be stopped by punching, hitting, or bullying back. I discourage this since “fighting back” can often escalate the issue. It teaches kids to become the bigger bully rather than putting an end to the bullying. Also, when kids fight back, they can be the ones that end up getting in trouble.
The ways parents can help:
Many of today’s popular teen drama shows touch on bullying and other issues that today’s teens face. Shows such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and HBO’s Euphoria cover topics like bullying, suicide, drugs, and more. I truly appreciate how they attempt to demonstrate how teenagers may feel and the issues they face. I recommend watching one of these shows with your teen if she has expressed an interest in any of them. These shows can provide parents with an excellent opportunity to have discussions on bullying and other topics.
Also, since kids and teens often don’t tell their parents that they’re experiencing bullying, parents should be aware of a pattern of signs that may indicate bullying:
Even though the stats for bullying may seem alarming, parents should know that there is still hope. With more awareness and a growing amount of resources, parents can help prevent and address bullying with their kids.
The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate, and Conquer Bullying book provides more information on using empathy, empowerment, and engagement to help address bullying and other issues.
For children who have been bullied, The Empowerment Space program provides a safe space with support, guidance and education to empower bullying victims to heal, address conflict and move forward.
About the Author:
Danielle Matthew is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who helps adolescents, adults, couples, and families who are in pain due to issues such as anxiety, severe stress, low self-esteem, or depression. With over 20 years of experience, Danielle authored Amazon Parenting Best-Seller, The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate, and Conquer Bullying, and is the Director of The Empowerment Space Bullying Therapy Program in Los Angeles. Featured in Huffington Post and TODAY.com, Danielle has appeared on Fox, ABC and CBS Morning Shows and Mom Talk Radio, and is the expert contributor to Washington Post’s article: ‘Kids love to ‘roast’ each other. But when does good-natured teasing become bullying?’
My name is Nino Yniguez, I’m an LMFT in Westlake Village at Engage Therapy and for this month’s blog I thought I would focus on sleep. Sleep is something that can be overlooked easily by teens and parents. Whether it’s the overload of parenting and work for adults or the fully packed days of school, friends, homework, sports, and video gaming of teens, sleep is something that can easily be lost. Over the last 7 years of working in the mental health field I have seen that for many people sleep has lost its value.
Since this is a blog for teens, I can spend a little time on some (but not all) of the things I have heard and seen that get in the way of sleep for teens. First, we’ll start with – they want to have fun! Play video games and talk with friends. Second, they may be constantly trying to catch up on their school work after their job or practice. Third, screen time may be filling their nights with YouTube videos, watching their favorite shows or scrolling through Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, these are pretty common things nowadays and adults do them too but lack of sleep can affect teens mental health, ability to manage stress, ability to focus, regulation of mood and much more.
Before I get into the tips for helping teens sleep, we can add some basic reasons/reminders why you might want to get some more rest. Sleep is an anabolic state which means your body is able to rejuvenate and grow. Consistent, good quality sleep will in a sense help rebuild you. It will help balance hormones, improve brain function and increase physical energy. It also helps teens and adults make better decisions, decrease anxiety/stress and better manage fluctuations in mood. In other terms, sleep is the restoration for the most important parts of our lives, our body and brain and if we deprive ourselves of it, we get further away from the best version of ourselves.
So if you are struggling to sleep or want to sleep more, here are some tips to help:
Saturnino Yniguez, M.A.
As we are teens, we deal with the daily triumphs and struggles of technology every day. Whether it is using social media, watching videos, or just searching things on the internet, we all have to adapt to what’s new every time we go online. For example, just the other day, the social media app “Instagram” released a new update for their interface. Every user with the app just then had to change the way they used it. “The screen looks different; I don’t like it” says one of our close friends. Even though some did not like it, that is how quick reactions can be garnered using technology. How technology itself affects us can be fascinating.
When using social media, there is a sense of belonging. You can communicate with a wide perimeter of friends, who can range from any age, even below the required age to start using such applications. Another thing is, how quickly you can feel left out of something, just as if it is a real-life scenario. For example, you could be left out of a group chat to make plans for a certain day of the week. Just like real life that can feel as if you weren’t invited to the party or to the get-together. It’s much easier to feel alone on social media than it is to feel like you are with others.
Social Media won’t be going away for a long time and the need to use it won’t go away either. To stay socially relevant, kids and teens have to stay active as much as possible online. So, when parents threaten to take away their devices, they don’t always realize that they could be taking away a child’s social life online and in real life. This is a dilemma parents, kids, and teens face as the “taking away” of electronics seems to be more of an aggressive choice as it was just 5 years ago. This can also form another sense of missing out for the child. Stress and anxiety can be caused by taking away the child’s sense of being there.
New ideas go into technology, and now a very popular subject has joined, anonymous messaging. The ability to be anonymous on the internet has been prevalent for many years, but recently it has risen and taken off in popularity. Apps like Sarahah and the Snapchat sponsored Yolo have risen in popularity as of late. With the ability for “friends” to give feedback without the person on the receiving end knowing who said it. This can be very dangerous, especially within friend groups. Misleading and hurtful messages can be sent through the service.
Technology is evolving every day. If you think you can catch up with, you’d be wrong, nobody can. There is only so much information one person can receive at a time, and with technology it becomes so much more complex than one could imagine. Just be understanding with what kids and teens these days have been introduced to, if you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask. Learning is key when it comes to understanding teens and technology.
Benjamin and Matthew Royer
How To Support Your Eating Disordered Child
"My daughter won't talk to me - she's wasting away." "My son gets angry every time I bring up my concerns that he's eating more than his body needs." "I hear her vomiting every time she leaves the dinner table." "She says that she's fine, but I know that she's not."
Do these scenarios sound familiar? How can it be that one can suddenly go from being a happy-go-lucky child to an anxious, withdrawn and sad individual who seemingly is angered by everything you say? Perhaps the eating disorder started after a breakup of a relationship, bullying at school, transitioning to high school or even an innocent attempt to drop a few pounds? Sometimes it seems as though obsession with weight loss, binging, purging or hating one's body comes out of nowhere. It feels like a stranger has literally taken over your child's mind and is pushing them further and further away from you. Ironically, parental instincts that once worked like a charm, are no longer effective. The eating disordered individual is emotionally fragile, easily angered, guarded and even seems paranoid at times. So how do you help? What do you say? What if they don't want help? These are important questions. Eating disorders are not something to be taken lightly. If left untreated, eating disorders can be life threatening. In fact, eating disorders have the highest death rate of all psychiatric illnesses!
FIND A TREATMENT TEAM!
It's tempting to believe that if you watch them like a hawk, monitor their meals and/or exercise and follow them to the restroom, the unhealthy behaviors will stop. Unfortunately, your child's behavior is serving a meaningful purpose in their life that has yet to be discovered Yes, your child's behaviors are helping them to cope. The behaviors might create the illusion of control or success. The behaviors can even be addictive or reduce anxiety. If your child feels micro-managed, they likely will intensify the behaviors, become more secretive or try new strategies that they feel will improve their appearance, comfort them or allow them to continue their weight loss mission. It's important to be aware that your child is terrified of recovery, weight gain, of losing their "best friend" (the eating disorder) and of not being sick enough to receive professional help.
Often, my clients are not excited to see me the first time. It can take years before an individual can see the negative impact that the eating disorder has had on their life. Sometimes, this realization does not come in time and the battle comes to a tragic end due to no intervention. It's a blessing when one's child wants help, but this certainly is not the norm. I suggest that parents find an eating disorder specialist that they trust and tell their child that they love them and want them to meet with someone who can assist them with the stress that might be impacting their self-image and eating habits. If the child insists, they do not wish to have help, the parent can indicate that this is not an option, but the child can meet two professionals and select the one they feel most comfortable with. Of course, if the child absolutely refuses, the parent reserves the option to suggest that the child could go to an inpatient facility instead. The parent’s dialogue with their child should be presented in a calm, loving and caring manner. A good clinician usually can ease a clients' fears and create a rapport quickly. Getting your child to treatment is the hardest part. I find that so often, the client who was reportedly going to give me a "run for my money," leaves their initial appointment feeling appreciative, understood and agrees that treatment is not such a bad idea!!!!!
A team approach is critical. A dietitian, medical doctor, and possibly a psychiatrist, should all be introduced into the treatment as soon as possible. Your therapist can help you to slowly build the right team. By the way, groups can be a wonderful adjunct to therapy but should never be utilized instead of individualized treatment in the early phases of recovery.
FOCUS ON THEIR HEART VERSUS THEIR APPEARANCES
"She constantly asks me if I can see the bulge on her tummy." "He wants to know if his muscles look too small." "If I eat this, will it make me fat?" The list of questions and worries can be endless. Does it feel like no matter what you say, you upset them more? Perhaps you remind them that they look beautiful today. Their response: "You have to say that because you’re my mom". Perhaps you tell them they look "healthy" and "perfect". In their mind, you just called them "fat". Honestly, commenting on physical appearances can be a no-win situation. I encourage ALL parents to focus comments on your child's intrinsic value verses their looks. Even if your child does not suffer from an eating disorder, it is better to love oneself from the "inside out" versus the "outside in". Catch your child doing something kind and tell them you appreciate their loving heart. If they ask you questions about their appearances, let them decide for themselves. For example, you can say, "How do you feel in your dress?" View questions about their body as in indication that something else is troubling them. Usually one’s focus on their body has nothing to do with appearances but another struggle. You can say, "It sounds like you are being hard on yourself today, want to talk?"
BE A HEALTHY ROLE MODEL:
If you discuss your own weight or exercise program, they will follow suit. If you tell them that you wish you looked as great as they do, they might believe you are in competition with them and may be afraid to trust you. If you comment on the appearances of friends, family, or people in the media, they may fear that you will be critical about them as well.
Exercise in moderation doing things that you enjoy. Hiking, riding a bike and dancing all are ways to enjoy being in your body without the formality of a gym. Yes, these activities count as exercise!!!!! When the focus becomes the number of calories burned or to make up for the damage done the day before, we are stumbling into unhealthy territory. Adopt an attitude that all foods are acceptable in moderation. A piece of birthday cake to celebrate a new year is yummy and appropriate! Enjoy food! Eat three meals a day and at least two snacks. Your child notices when you miss meals or label foods as "taboo" or "bad".
LOOK FOR THE SHADES OF GRAY:
"I'm fat". "I'm stupid". "No one will ever fall in love with me." Sound familiar? Eating disordered individuals tend to subscribe to "all or nothing" thinking. Help your child to find the "shades of gray" For Example, "You are an appropriate weight for your height". "We all make mistakes - you are learning." "You have had love before and are capable of finding it again - We do not know what the future holds.” If you are not sure how to respond but you can recognize that they are talking in extremes, point out "that sounds like all or nothing thinking." You can them challenge them to find the exceptions to what they have just said. For instance: "If you were truly overweight, do you think that your peers and your doctors would all be telling you that they are concerned you are too thin?"
ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE:
During recovery, structure in your child's daily routine is extremely important! Let's face it: when life feels "in control", we feel better. Routine helps the eating disordered individual to feel more in control. Having meals at predictable times, knowing plans and being in a familiar environment can all make your child feel safer and more relaxed. Even fun activities like going on vacation, trying a new restaurant or going on an all-day outing can leave your child feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed or simply sabotage their goals. Imagine what it must be like for someone to go to a hotel and eat all their meals at a restaurant when they are terrified to eat anything that has not been prepared at home by oneself. Or imagine how a binge eater might feel spending a day at a theme park that has mostly buffets and fast foods that they are terrified of being around. Of course, the long-term goal is to be able to be intuitive about one’s food intake and to experience new adventures. Doing this too soon can result in emotional upset for everyone involved. Discuss upcoming plans, schedule changes (summer vacation versus school) and travel with your treatment team so that these things can be discussed and prepared for in advance.
UNCONDITIONAL POSITIVE REGARD:
Your child's self-esteem is fragile right now. They question their value and their worth. There is nothing more powerful than showing them that you love them because they are your precious child. It is so critical that guilt, punishments or bribes are not utilized to promote recovery. Eating disorders are an illness, not a choice. One did not choose to develop an eating disorder, but they can choose to get well. Say things such as "I love you and I want to help you to love yourself." It's imperative that we avoid saying things such as "If you love your family, you will stop this behavior." Similarly, it's important not to offer gifts for recovery or weight gain. If we tell them that we will purchase them a new car when they get to their goal weight, what happens when their weight fluctuates? Of course, statements such as "How could you waste all of that food?" only reinforces a sense of shame and disgust with oneself. The more they feel our love combined with our commitment to keeping them safe, the easier it will be for them to slowly learn to love and accept themselves.
Some days we will feel like we are getting our happy-go-lucky child back, the next day they will spiral downward into a pit of angst and despair! Gently explore what triggers their eating disorder. You can say things such as "You seem more preoccupied with your weight today. What is happening in your life that might be causing you to feel more stressed?" Remember, eating disorders are a coping mechanism. Try not to focus on your child's weight with them. Don't assume that someone or something is to blame for the eating disorder. Eating disorders are not caused by parents, the media or vanity. Eating disorders can show up after starting a simple diet. As stated previously, eating disorders are an illness. Certainly, many things can trigger the onset of the eating disorder but, realistically, the eating disorder was likely going to show up regardless of the stress in one's life. If you can assist your child in recognizing that they restrict, binge, purge, etc. when they are stressed about school, having social struggles, upset with their boss, or other matters that are occurring in their life, then they can be encouraged to address these situations directly. Caution: Don't tell your child what you believe is stressing them out that led to them being triggered. Ask them questions so that they can discover the trigger themselves. If they don't want to talk, honor their request and remind them that you are there for them should they change their mind. Sometimes just spending time with them watching a movie, walking the dog or hanging out will help them to decompress and move away from their eating disordered thoughts or behaviors.
Encourage healthy coping! Journaling, drawing, knitting and prayer are just a few examples of healthy behaviors that can provide an outlet for emotional distress and provide a sense of accomplishment or feeling of being more in control. Unfortunately, suggestions to exercise, read a magazine, work in a clothing store or search the web, can all intensify the eating disorder. For example, if we say, "Go to the gym, you will feel better," your loved one might hear this as an indirect message that they need to lose weight. Never assume that exercise will restore an anorexic's "lost hunger". I have had a few clients suggest that their anorexic child exercise for this purpose. It is not safe or appropriate to suggest that someone underweight go to the gym to cope or to work up an appetite. Reading a magazine might trigger one to become more agitated as they see diet suggestions and emaciated models. I have had one to many clients tearfully tell me that their size was mistakenly overestimated by a customer who wanted to purchase a gift for a friend or family member in the store in which they worked. The goal is to focus on activities that have nothing to do with food, exercise, fashion, appearances or weight!!!!!!!
RECOVERY IS FOR REAL:
Yes, I do see clients recovering from eating disorders every day!!!!! Having been blessed to do this work for over 20 years, I've had the opportunity to see clients grow up and have beautiful lives loving themselves, getting married, excelling in careers and creating families. Family support and love is a gift you can give your child. With a good team and a commitment to treatment, miraculous changes and growth can occur.
By: Michelle Gross, MA, LMFT: Eating Disorder Specialist in Westlake Village, CA