Hilber Psychological Services
Therapy for Children, Teens, & Adults in San Diego
HPS Background.jpg

Hilber Psychological Services

San Diego Therapists | Child Therapist | Couples Counseling | ADHD | Anxiety | Parenting | Behaviors | Relationships | Marriage and Family Therapists | Psychologists | Professional Clinical Counselors

Posts in Emotions
What to do when Girls experience Bullying and Frenemies

In the the article “Helping Girls Cope with Bullying and Frenemies,” author Signe Whitson describes the passive aggressive world girls live in. She denotes that parents should be aware of their child’s emotions and how another girl can strongly affect them. Whitson describes simple lessons that parents should teach their child that will truly help her with her troubles with her friends. Girl friends are always nice to have, a good support system, a shoulder to cry on, someone who will lift you up and give you confidence, and make you laugh, but at the same time they could be a devil in disguise. 

Whitson focuses on the common question: “What can adults do to help kids cope with inevitable experiences of friendship conflict and bullying?”

iStock-912799078.jpg

To Intervene or Not to Intervene?

It is very confusing when it is the right time to intervene. Parents have trouble deciding if they should protect their child from bullying and the pain that comes with a broken friendship or let them figure it out. Truthfully, no child should be left to deal with their pain alone especially when they lose a friendship. In the moment, calling off the friendship may have been the right decision because your child’s mental health and self-esteem can now improve, but your daughter just lost a person that was a piece of her life for so much time. This is when your child needs adult support and reassurance that everything will be okay. Bullying is a huge part of a girl’s life and most girls don’t know how to cope with it or even know that friendship should not be this hard. 

Teach Her to Know it When it Happens

Bullying is known to fly “under-the-radar” in a sense that it is very hard to distinguish when it is happening.  Many girls don’t know what they are experiencing it in their friendship until the pain, humiliation, and isolation gets into their heads. Even then, it is important that parents keep and open dialogue with their child and teach them typical behaviors that they need to look out for in a friendship...the warning signs. 

When girls know what bullying looks and feels like, they are more educated to make a decision to move on from friendships that are making them feel bad when using these behaviors.

Whitson lists the common behaviors that bullies do that adults and kids need to be consciousness of: 

  1. Excluding girls from parties and play dates

  2. Talking about parties and play dates in front of girls who are not invited

  3. Mocking, teasing, and calling girls names

  4. Giving girls the "silent treatment"

  5. Threatening to take away friendship ("I won't be your friend anymore if...")

  6. Encouraging others to "gang up" on a girl you are angry with

  7. Spreading rumors and starting gossip about a girl

  8. "Forgetting" to save a seat for a friend or leaving a girl out by "saving a seat" for someone else

  9. Saying something mean and then following it with "just joking" to try to avoid blame

  10. Using cell phones and/or social media to gossip, start rumors, say mean things, or forward embarrassing posts and photos

Help Your Daughter Cope with her Anger

Remember anger is a normal emotion to have. However, many girls are taught at a young age that anger is bad. They are pressured to be “good” all the time but that is a little difficult when their feelings get hurt. This is when your child needs to express how they feel no matter how hard it may be. Whitson provides an example of how a child should communicate her feelings: "Hey. I don't like the way you are treating me right now. I'm feeling angry about what you just said/did/pretended not to do, and I'm not going to let you treat me that way anymore.

Encourage Her to Show Strength

It is okay to feel sad, or hurt, or angry, but it is even better if girls know how to communicate what they are feeling whether that is to a close friend or a frenemy. However, when it comes to facing off with a frenemy, Whitson advices to parents ”teach young girls how to show resolute strength.” Teach your child how to be strong verbally in a sense that she knows how to control what comes out of her mouth and deflect a situation whenever their feelings are disrespected. As a parent, it is your job to be a cushion for your child where she can lean on you for support and express her emotions: a safe place to be vulnerable. 

Teach Her to Know What She is Looking For

A friendship provides a sense of belonging where girls should be comfortable being themselves and opening up. If your daughter feels like she can’t do that then the friendship should be questioned. In order to feel accepted and embraced, a friendly, heart warming conversation with your daughter is never too bad to remind her about the values she should look for in a friendship. Whitson acknowledges that in any real friendship, both parties should:

  • Use kind words

  • Take turns and cooperates

  • Shares

  • Uses words to tell each other how she feels

  • Help each other when needed

  • Compliments each other 

  • Includes each other 

  • Is always there for each other 

  • Understands how each other feels

  • Care about each other’s opinions and feelings

  • Stand up for one another 

  • Is fun to be with

  • Has a lot in common with each other 

When girls understand their feelings and how they should communicate them, a beautiful and supportive friendship will result. With help from their parents, girls will learn all the skills needed to form a healthy friendship by knowing what a quality friendship looks like. 

For more information on how Hilber Psychological Services can help you and your children to cope with their friendship conflicts and feelings, please contact us

- Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References 

Whitson, Signe. “Helping Girls Cope with Bullying and Frenemies.” Psychology Today. Web. 12, Jan. 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/201501/helping-girls-cope-bullying-and-frenemies

Helping your Tween or Teen Navigate Social Conflict

In the article “How to Help Tweens and Teens Manage Social Conflict,” author Lisa Damour describes the difference between a conflict and what is defined as bullying. She suggests multiple ways parents can address these problems. Also in her book “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls,” she references how you as a parent can deal with stress and anxiety from experiencing a conflict with your child and another tween or teen. 

iStock-1132008476.jpg

To begin with, Damour illustrates that middle school and high school are the prime times for bullying and conflict to occur. In school, “social friction and hurt feelings often come with the territory, with the risk of causing intense emotional stress both for the tweens and teenagers themselves...” (Damour).

“Conflict is unavoidable and can be a point of growth,” says Andrea Shaffer, a teacher and coach for conflict cases at the private preschool-grade 12 Chicago Waldorf Schools. Although conflict can be very mentally draining, once teens work out their conflicts, it is very rewarding. With friendship comes conflict. Each friendship endures a hardship that tests their friendship. As a teenager conflict is very hard to deal with alone. It is in these situations when parents are recommended to step in. Not only will parents help diffuse the situation, but also through the process, children will learn how to communicate clearly and express how they are feeling about the situation in a calm, non-blaming tone of voice. 

Parents are most helpful to their children when they take conflict seriously and “have strategies to coach them along as they work to resolve things on their own” according to Damour.

Don’t Confuse Conflict With Bullying

Damour alludes that “when our [a] child suffers a social injury, it’s easy to conclude that he or she has been bullied.” However, experts suggest that this word is commonly misconceived. Bullying is a term that is used frequently when aggression is in the eye. 

Social discord “rarely involves bullying,” explains Phyllis Fagell, a counselor at the Sheridan School, in Washington, D.C., and the author of the forthcoming book “Middle School Matters.” “Most commonly, conflict stems from anything ranging from a misunderstood comment to a spilled secret, to a lopsided friendship.”

When this occurs, it is difficult for many to diagnose when to intervene. Sometimes teenagers just need to work it out, while other times require adult, teacher, coach or counselor supervision. In either of these situations, it is important to remember that each child is emotional. Although one may be the main cause of the problem (the bully), they should both be treated fairly. As a parent, Damour explains that “you’ll want to take a measured, evidence-based approach to the problem” if your child is being bullied. This way you can develop strategies to help manage the situation such as sitting down and having a conversation, separating the two who are in the conflict, or taking it up to a more authoritative figure at the school.

Teach Healthy Conflict

In order to diffuse conflict, parents should coach and practice what their teen should say and do. From there, teens and tweens can decide their next move based on how comfortable they feel with the whole thing. It is dire to measure how serious the situation is. Either way, it is important “to stand up for yourself while being respectful of others” (Damour).

iStock-936166346.jpg

At any age, most people go directly to an unhealthy response and source of action when it comes to being upset with someone. Damour suggests that when “advising adolescents on how they might handle a disagreement, I first teach them about reactions to conflict and allow them to daydream their way through a bulldozer, doormat or doormat-with-spikes response.”

Most people want to get back at the person who caused them pain. Some people verbally rake someone while others post an unflattering image of the “friend” on social media and write a nasty comment about them. With this being done, the “friend” might respond. There is no telling how or in what tone they will respond in, but the whole goal of the picture on social media is to get a reaction out of the other person. By doing this, the two friends are forced to talk because one caused a commotion that needs to be dealt with. 

“Kids may need to be reminded,” says Ms. Fagell, “to keep arguments offline. Because once they’ve waged war in a group chat at one in the morning, it becomes much harder to achieve a peaceful resolution.”

Let Them Pick Their Battles

When it comes to two teens who are in an argument, it is best to either decide to guide your child in the right direction by diffusing the situation in a civil way or deciding not to engage at all. Although you may feel the urge to help your child or tell them what to do every step of the way, “conflict, even when handled well, takes time and tremendous mental energy” (Damour). In these types of situations, it is best to help your child weigh out the costs and benefits of engaging in conflict. Damour states that it is important to ask you and your child questions that will help them determine their next step: “Do they care about the relationship enough to want to work on it? Do they expect their pillar overture to meet with a similar response?”

“Contrary to conventional wisdom,” adds Ms. Fagell, “kids aren’t always looking to restore friendships. They may need permission to move on or need help creating a more comfortable, if distant, interpersonal dynamic.” They just need to find some closure.

Teaching your child to pick their battles is a risky step. In detail, they could go the easy way and just cut off their “friend” or they could do everything to hurt that “friend.” Either way, most tweens and teens will want to emotionally hurt the other person and make them feel the burden that they felt. But that’s not the goal. As Ms. Shaffer notes, “we don’t have emotional Bubble Wrap for children, but we do have ways to help them develop the emotional agility to navigate through difficult situations.”

For more information on friendships, teens, and tweens and conflict resolution, please contact us. To learn how we can help you or your child who may be struggling with being successful managing the social world, contact us or visit our website. For more information on therapy, visit Hilber Psychological Services.

- Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Damour, Lisa. (2019, Jan 16). How to Help Tweens and Teens Manage Social Conflict. The NY Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/16/well/family/how-to-help-tweens-and-teens-manage-social-conflict.html.

Damour, Lisa. (2017). Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Damout, Lisa. (2019). Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Low Confidence with Bright Girls

In the article “Why Bright Girls Struggle: When Ability Doesn't Lead to Confidence,” Katherine of A Mighty Girl, acknowledges the differences between the positive affirmations men and women need. In detail, she describes how bright girls tend to doubt themselves because they do not think that they can succeed at something new and challenging.

iStock-982740466.jpg

Girls may not realize that the hardest obstacle to overcome is within themselves. In order to succeed, girls may hold themselves to a higher standard. However, this harsh judgement can get too much into their heads and make them doubt even simple tasks more than men would. For example, psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, the author of “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently,” writes "at the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science... [but] bright girls [are] much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result." Halvorson notes that even though girls do better than boys do in school, girls are more likely to lose faith in their ability to succeed time after time. In fact, girls may give up quicker than boys when a task appears more complex or difficult and girls who have straight A’s and a higher intelligence are more likely to give up sooner than others.

We, as individuals, need to understand why bright girls question their abilities and how we can help them feel more confident. Instead of letting girls give up when a task is too complex, we should encourage them to keep going not only because we believe in them but because they are already good at the task, they may be just doubting themselves and tenacity is helpful in these situations. Practice makes better, even when they’re struggling.

Further studies have discovered that girls believe that their abilities are unchangeable (a fixed mindset), while boys believe that their effort and practice will be enough to get them through (a growth mindset). This difference in attitude is based on the kind of feedback that each gender receives. For instance, boys are given feedback that emphasizes their effort whether they need to apply themselves more or are doing a good job. On the other hand, girls are given feedback on how smart and good they are or are not. These beliefs can create self doubt and possibly maintain the self doubt throughout their lives if they are not changed.

If women question their ability to succeed then one should embrace what they can do versus what they can’t. Have confidence in oneself to accomplish and accept challenges one may face. Keep working hard because practice makes better!

For more information on how to help your teen increase their confidence, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Katherine. “Why Bright Girls Struggle: When Ability Doesn't Lead to Confidence.” A Mighty Girl. 18 Nov. 2018. Web. https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=21158

Grant Halvorson, Heidi. “The Trouble With Bright Girls.” Psychology Today. 11 Jan. 2011. Web. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-success/201101/the-trouble-bright-girls

Grant Halvorson, Heidi. (2012) Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Parent's Perspective of the Tween's brain

In the article, “This mother's description of her tween son's brain is a must-read for all parents,” Annie Reneau described an example of good parenting. There is no true definition of great parenting, but one that comes close to that is someone who is willing to take the time to talk to their child. In order to gain a better perspective of what is going through your child’s mind, both you and your child should both take the time to respectfully listen to each other. This is the time to acknowledge that your child is going through a stage, called puberty, where it is very difficult for your child to control their emotions. This is not a time to yell at your child for being moody, but an instance where you can help your child understand why they are moody in the first place. Maybe they don’t even know what or why they are saying something in a specific tone in the first place.

iStock-863618266.jpg

All mothers have to raise their child into the teen years, so why not treat the scenario the best you can? A mother of an 11-year-old boy asked a question about parenting on Quora: “How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won’t tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I’ve already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)?”

Reneau interviewed Jo Eberhardt, a mother of two, who replied with a solid answer to the common question “how do I talk to my child about their emotions and their attitude towards me when they are experiencing puberty without pushing them away?” Eberhardt recounts a discussion that she had with her 11 ½-year-old son who was experiencing what every tween child goes through, the terrible twos all over again...puberty.

Instead of Eberhardt telling her son you did this because or you did that because, she remembered that is was not her son who purposefully talked to her rudely, but his brain. We forget that it is our brain that is controlling our emotions and changing as we grow and age. She stated that “Not only is your body being transformed from a child’s body to an adult’s body, your brain has to be completely rewritten from a child's brain to an adult’s brain” because at age 5 or 6 it was fully developed for a child but not yet ready to fit an adult body. Puberty is the training process for your brain to get used to your new body and fully develop a sense of who you are.

Certain parts of the brain such as the amygdala, a part of the brain that controls your emotions, also control how much sleep one gets and how cranky one may be in the morning. Eberhardt’s son began to understand how his moodiness could come off frustrating to his mother. Not only did he come to a consensus, but so did his mother who also realized how unmanageable it may be for an adult-sized amygdala hitting all your emotion buttons at once.

This is the time when one needs to raise their child's spirit and be careful not to break it. Admit to your child that it is not their fault for not having a fully developed amygdala and frontal cortex, but instead, praise them for seeing that their bodies are changing and the hormone changes that come with it.

By explaining the physiological reasons behind their changing bodies, children may begin to understand that it is puberty’s fault that their brain is working the way it does. Eberhardt stated that it is still your responsibility to take ownership of your actions and recognize what is going on and choose another way: “You get to choose what you do with your feelings. And, when you make a mistake, you get to choose to apologize for that mistake and make amends.”

Keep empathizing and communicating with your child. This way “when we let one’s kids know that we're going through these various phases together, it's easier to work with them instead of against them” (Ebehardt). As their adult brain is developing, they need to realize that their hormones are ranging and how to control them. At least now they know it is not their fault for being moody and why. Every child goes through this treacherous stage in life, so give them some slack because you went through it too.

Contact us for more information on how to communicate with your child and how your family can function best throughout puberty. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Reneau, Annie. “This mother's description of her tween son's brain is a must-read for all parents.” UpWorthy. Web. 4 Jan. 2019. https://www.upworthy.com/this-mother-s-description-of-her-tween-son-s-brain-is-a-must-read-for-all-parents