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Posts in Relationships
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?”

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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. 

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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).

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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.

Reminder: You can always leave an uncomfortable situation
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As a little boy or girl, were you ever at a sleepover, but something didn’t feel right, and you just wanted to leave? In high school, were you ever at a party and realized there was drugs alcohol, and no parents were home, and you just wanted to leave? Have you ever been on a date that was so uncomfortable, you just wanted to leave? In college, were you ever in a situation where someone was trying to get you to do something you didn’t want to, and you just wanted to leave? As an adult, have you ever been at a bar with some of your friends and someone else kept hitting on you and you just wanted to leave? The reality of it, is we have all been in an uncomfortable situation and forgot that we are allowed to just leave. The reason we stayed may have been because we were scared, we were embarrassed, or we wanted to please the people around us. This blog is a reminder to men and women of all ages that it is perfectly okay to leave a situation, regardless of what other people may think.

Erynn Brook shared her story through a twitter thread of the first time her mother taught her she was allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation and the many times after that she was reminded. Brook explains, “I was maybe 7, I think it was my first sleepover at someone else’s house… before I left Mum told me that if I was uncomfortable at any point, for any reason, even if it was the middle of the night, I could call her.” As Brook’s night continued, she was bullied by her friends and decided she wanted to leave. The girl’s mom tried to discourage her by saying “it was late, I could sleep on the couch, and that I was upsetting her daughter.” Brooks called her mom anyways. When her mom arrived in the middle of the night, the other girl’s mom apologized, Brook’s mom stopped her and said “don’t apologize for my daughter. I want her to know she’s allowed to leave, and I’ll be there for her at any time.”

As she grew up, there were many other uncomfortable situations Brook wanted to leave. Ranging from times her friends were bullying her to resigning from a job, she always remembered her mom’s advice. Brook explains that she is aware this is not a widespread idea. Most parents teach their kids to “just deal with it” or “don’t be a quitter,” but that’s not what this lesson is about. Leaving an uncomfortable situation is one of the hardest decisions. Leaving does not mean you are soft or weak, it means you are strong and brave.  

The most important lesson is that everyone is allowed to leave. There may be some situations, for some people where there is no way out. However, the important thing to remember, is that you’re ALLOWED to. You have the right and the ability to leave. A helpful part to remembering this, is having someone, like Brook had her mom, to always be there to remind you it is okay to leave and help you get out of the situation. Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable, regardless of your age or gender. YOU are in control of your life, YOU set your own boundaries, and YOU are allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Marfice, Christina. “Powerful Thread Reminds Us We Can Always Leave Uncomfortable Situations.” Scary Mommy, Scary Mommy, 2 Oct. 2018, www.scarymommy.com/twitter-thread-uncomfortable-leave/

5 Proven Benefits of Play

Summer has come to an end and children are back in school. Back to school means waking up early, attending school, working on homework, doing extracurricular activities, and then off to bed early. This routine is beneficial for a growing child, but who is setting aside time for play? With all of these important obligations, are children getting the time they need to let loose and play? “5 Proven Benefits of Play,” written by Anya Kamenetz, reminds parents, teachers, and pediatricians of the importance of play and how it can help the development of children.  

1.     Play is essential for healthy brain development.

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Just as adults use puzzles and crosswords to exercise our brains, children can use play to help develop their brains. Brain-derived neurotrophic factors, or BDNF, allows the brain to grow and develop healthy connections. Studies have proven that play, such as roughhousing and tussling around, can change the expression of genes to increase the production of BDNF. 30 minutes a day of this kind of play can encourage proper development of the brain.

2.     Play reduces obesity and associated diseases.

Just as adults go to the gym to stay in shape, children need to exercise and play in order to stay in shape. A child who plays a lot at a young age, the more likely they are to be active and healthy adults. At least one hour of play outdoors has proven signification improvement in body mass index. A study showed that “children who actively play outside are 42 percent less likely to be overweight.”

3.     Play helps children manage stress and even recover from trauma.

Most adults are aware of the term “self-care”. Practicing self-care is a way to increase your health and well-being. Similarly, a study showed that children who play regularly, one-on-one with a teacher, taking their own lead, improves behavior and reduces cortisol, a stress hormone. The connection built between the child and teacher is known as “banking time,” the building of a warm, relationship.

4.     Play helps families bond.

Just as “banking time” builds relationships with teachers, it also builds relationships with families. “Hirsh-Pasek points out ‘the conversation with kids that come out in play are brain-builders.’” Playing allows children to regulate their emotions by “getting on the same page” as others they are playing with. This connection can help children in their future when they are faced with difficult situations.

5.     Play contributes to academic skills.

When children play using their imagination, they are developing their language development, general knowledge, and intrinsic motivation. This development leads to improved test scores. By connecting objects, words, and feelings, children are building STEM learning skills, which will benefit their education.  

Life can be busy and overwhelming at times. This blog is a reminder to let your child play. Not only does it release energy so bed time is easier, but it has many proven benefits for your child ranging from brain development, social skills, and academic improvement.

If you have questions about children development please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. 

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Kamenetz, Anya. “5 Proven Benefits Of Play.” NPR, NPR, 31 Aug. 2018, www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/08/31/642567651/5-proven-benefits-of-play.