Young Adult

  • Sticks and Stones

    #affirmation #bully #bullying #verbal #emotional #abuse

    Sticks and stones will break my bones

    but words will never hurt me.  

    That is an absolute lie.  Words do hurt. They not only hurt, but they can also have a sting that forever lives in one’s inner core.  As parents, we oftentimes feel what our children feel. When they hurt, we hurt; albeit an illness or emotional harm.   If you’re a parent of a child who has low self-esteem or has been the victim of bullying, then you probably understand this better than most.  

    Children with low self-esteem are likely to internalize what is said to them which may lead to ruminating thoughts.  Rumination is when one dwells on negative thoughts, focusing on what they’ve done wrong and what they should’ve or could’ve done differently.  These circling thoughts may lead to a negative self-image.

    According to the official government website, stopbullying.gov, “The most common types of bullying are verbal and social.”  Some studies suggest as many as ⅓  of US school children report that they have been bullied.  All of these statistics are alarming but when they hit home, they hit a little differently.

    We send them out into the world and hope that they’ll be okay but sometimes we can’t be there to shield them.  Since building a fort and never letting them leave isn’t a healthy option, how do we help protect our children from harsh words?  

    As infantile as it may seem, providing your child with positive affirmations before, during and after incidents or periods of verbal abuse may in some ways, safeguard children from being as affected. Let’s be clear, positive praise isn’t a substitute for therapy. Therapy is always strategic and usually long-term. Therapists teach clients essential coping skills and techniques to unpack emotional baggage in a safe environment.  In addition to seeking professional treatment, parents and educators can pump great energy by way of positive affirmation into children which, in turn, combats some of the negativity that may be thrust upon them. Just as “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” rings in song in most of our heads as we repeat it, positive affirmations work the same way.    

     

     

    Hopefully this visual can illustrate the effectiveness of positive words.  Do you see the one phrase that doesn’t fit?  It’s enveloped amongst positivity.  It’s difficult to spot. It’s not isolated. It doesn’t really stand a chance amongst the warm insulation of what surrounds it.  

     

    When one of my daughters was in the second grade, she began to feel isolated and ultimately bullied by some of the girls in her grade.  She attended a small school with less than thirty children per grade, so it was very easy to feel isolated.  I heard her crying to herself one evening long after she was supposed to be asleep.  When I inconspicuously asked her about what was bothering her over morning breakfast, she revealed that some of the girls were saying mean things and talking in front of her as if she were invisible.  I’ll be honest, the initial wave of anger had to dissipate before I could think with a completely sound mind.  I realized I need to do something to cure her wound that was, for the first time in her young life, not physically visible.

    Since my girls were born, I made a conscientious effort to greet them every single morning with a cheerful “Good morning!”  I just believe that children should wake up knowing that someone is happy to see them and is looking forward to speaking to them.  I’ve also taught them to greet me the same way.  I don’t give much care to the whole, I’m not a morning person thing.  One of my girls is a complete morning person like me, the other is the complete opposite.  My rule is that we don’t have to have long drawn out morning conversations until you’re ready but we will acknowledge our appreciation for seeing each other wake to experience another day by greeting one another upon first glance.  It’s now a natural occurrence and unbeknownst to them, I’ve also taught them that they are worthy of acknowledgment by not only myself but by others around them.

    Once this incident happened, I began pumping them with morning affirmations.  One of my favorite things to do was crawl into bed to steal a few morning minutes with my little ones.  While there I’d whisper:

    You are kind. You are smart.  You are beautiful.  You are an amazing person.   Today is going to be a great day.  

    She resisted me at first but that too became the norm.  After she got used to me saying it daily, I had her repeat it with me.  When other instances of bullying occurred, I’d remind her of her greatness and put in perspective that what her peers said didn’t matter.   Positive thoughts and phrases are easily incorporated into the school day, administrators can share them during morning meetings or over the intercom for daily announcements.  Teachers can start off or end classes with words of encouragement.  Kids thrive when they know they have a sound support team.

    More and more, great schools are incorporating positive affirmations into their school day.  Parents and instructional leaders must be partners in the educational process every step of the way.  This partnership must include a process that eradicates bullying as something that just happens, particularly in middle schools.  Long gone are the days where we dismiss the cruel effects of verbal harassment and physical violence with “boys will be boys” or they’re just “mean girls”.  As a society, we now know better, so it’s important for adults to do better by understanding and emphasizing the importance of speaking positivity into existence.  When speaking to children, think back to the key principle that we all learned in kindergarten, use your words. Just remember to use them wisely because words do hurt and what we say matters.

     

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  • Back to High School

    September is just two weeks away! Honestly, where did this summer go? The rain just washed it away! Any who – we always hear about “back to school” tips. Usually in the first week of July when the kiddos just got out of those locker-lined halls. Instead of planning barbecues and laying out by the pool, we are bombarded with backpacks, pencils and binders flooding an entire fourth of Target. So, we decided to wait until the appropriate time to talk with you about a lesser discussed subject -“back to high school” tips! Today I am going to be writing about what you can do as a parent to help your child prepare for their first day as a high school freshman.

     

    1.    Familiarity

    Help your child get familiar with their new school. They’ve never been here before and it’s probably much larger and more intimidating then their middle school was. Some schools offer an orientation where all of the kids can come in and get familiar with the building as well as practice their locker combinations. However, if your child’s school district does not offer orientation at the end of summer, make sure to find a time where you and your kid can take a tour of the school. It is particularly helpful if you already have their school schedule, that way you can easily help them locate the classes that they will be attending and do a general run-through of their day! If possible, picking up a school map will help if your child gets confused and can’t remember where a class is located.

    1.    Organization

    Help your child prepare for their first day of high school. While many teachers don’t give out a list of supplies until the first day of school, it is best to come prepared on the first day with a folder, notebook, pen and pencil. Trust me, there are going to be a lot of handouts! When your child gets home from school, go through their lists of supplies with them and make a plan to get everything that they need. If you are looking to cut back on costs (who isn’t?), try to scavenge around the house for supplies that you may already have lying around from previous years. You can also plan a supply swap with friends and family. For example, while you might have an extra notebook you don’t need, a friend might have an extra folder that you do need. You can then swap items! If all else fails, the Dollar Store is always a great option!

    1.    Involvement

    High school offers a wide variety of clubs, sports and other opportunities. Encourage your child take advantage of these! You can help by taking a look at the school’s website and seeing what kind of extracurricular activities they have to offer. Sit down with your child and weed out the ones that they are not interested in and zero in on the ones that fascinate them. Having your child get involved in something like soccer, drama club, or student council will help them attain a sense of belonging. It will also help them expand on their circle of friends and find where they fit in. Multiple small middle schools often merge into one larger high school so there is a good chance that there are a lot of people your child does not know yet. Participating in activities will help them branch out while also discovering their interests!

    1.    Communication

    Always keep the lines of communication open. Your child is going through change and may be anxious about this new transition in their life. The work load changes from middle school to high school and your child may be under more stress than he/she once was. Your child is also experiencing bodily changes as they are now becoming an adult, which can be a very confusing time. You can help your child get through this by keeping an open dialogue about the struggles that they are going through. Monitor their feelings and let them know that you are listening and that you care. If you notice any warning signs of severe anxiety, lower self-esteem or depression, seek help. Talking with the student guidance counselor is a good place to start.

     

    These next four years are going to be exciting for your child. As parents, you’re going to be able to watch them transform from your precious babies into wonderful adults. Always remember that no one is perfect. Allow them to make mistakes, it helps them grow! Just make sure the mistakes aren’t too big. Happy high schooling!

     

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  • Summer Reading Tips

    I have always loved to read. Even as a kid I was never pushed to read. Give me a good book any day and I’ll get sucked right into it. Reading has many benefits that can especially help with brain development. The United States Department of Education found that children who choose to read on their own time are more likely to score higher on reading scores than those who don’t (from the National Education Association). The Department had polled 12th-grade students in the 1990s and found out that the number of students who said that they “never” read or “hardly ever read” rose from 9 to 16 percent (National Education Association). Most kids have a hard time getting excited about reading: when it’s assigned to them, it feels like a chore, and when it’s on their own time, it seems boring.

    “Incentives”

    Fortunately, there are always so many ways to help your child get excited about reading over the summer. Many organizations and companies have summer reading programs. For example, T.D. Bank will give $10 to kids in grades K-5th who have read 10 books over the summer months. The kids just have to track their reading on a sheet and hand it into their nearest bank (you can find the information here). The organization We Are Teachers posted a list of 10 programs that they love on their blog. It includes programs from companies like Barnes and Noble, Scholastic, and Chuck E. Cheese.

    Ideas

    We Are Teachers also suggests checking out your local public library. Public libraries will always have summer reading activities for kids of all ages. For example, the Princeton Public Library offers a program for kids ages K-5th, while the Woodbridge Public Library offers an escape room type activity for teenagers. The libraries have great programs that will not only get your kids reading, but will have them getting involved with their community as well.

    If your child is struggling to find something to read, Read Brightly has created their own list of what they think were the best children’s and YA books of 2018. Surely, your kid will find something to read on this list.

    Activites

    If you want to plan out an entire summer’s worth of reading, Reading Rockets has a list of activities and adventures that you can do with your kid over the 10 weeks of summer. These activities are more educational and help maintain reading skills over the summer months. One activity involves writing out favorite flavors of ice cream and listing them in alphabetical order. These are great activities for younger kids who are just developing their reading skills.

     

    Summer reading doesn’t have to be hard. There are so many helpful and amazing ways to get your kids’ minds active, and still make sure that their season off is one to remember.

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  • A Girl’s Best Friend

    Mother’s Day is just around the corner, so I want to share with all of you a little bit about my mom and our very unique relationship.

    I recently read an article by HuffPost about the mother-daughter relationship and how it is impossible for a mother to be a daughter’s best friend because the relationship of a “mom” trumps the relationship of a “best friend”.

     

    It got me thinking because my mom and I always refer to each other as best friends. So are we really insulting our mother-daughter relationship by using the term “best friend” which is less than mother?

    The Role of ‘Mom’

    Ever since I was born she was my protector and my guardian, as all mothers are meant to be. She then became the one person, when growing up, that I could tell everything to. Because you see – she never judged me or scolded me when I told her what was going on in my life – she was always just so thankful that I was sharing things with her. And that’s how it went for 18 years.

    I’d go to her for advice, complain about boys, tell her secrets about my siblings (sorry guys) and tell her my secrets as well. That’s when I thought of her as my mom. A very chill mom.

    The Role of ‘Best Friend’

    When I became an adult is when she turned to me. She’d come to me for advice, complain about boys, tell me secrets about her family and even tell me secrets about herself. And I became her protector, her guardian and the one person that she could tell everything to. I never judged her or scolded her because I was just so thankful that she could confide in me the same way I always confided in her. That’s when I thought of her as my friend. My best friend.

    We were able to become best friends because my mom and I have a deep mutual respect and understanding of one and other. She takes care of me and I take care of her. That’s our secret to having a great friendship – the fact that we treat each other as constant equals.

     

    I don’t think being best friends with your mom makes your mother-daughter bond less than. I believe it makes it stronger.

    Because you can’t choose your mom. She is given to you and that is an unconditional love. You can, however, choose your best friend and I choose her every single day.

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