Is Your Child Being Bullied? Is Your Child the Bully?

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Recently, the potential outcomes from bullying was described in the popular series “13 Reasons Why”.  The series dramatized all the possible worse case scenarios from bullying: suicide, the creation of a potential mass shooter and some horrific examples of bullying (I won’t describe in here).

 

Graphic, horrible, sensational!  I am not saying that this type of bullying and the outcomes from bullying do not happen.  We know it does. We know that kids who have committed suicide and some mass shooters have a history of being bullied.  But, or course, we know that many kids who have been bullied, do not resort to these actions.

 

Lasting Trauma

 

However, research shows that bullying can cause lasting trauma and the effects that trauma can have on an individual: physically and emotionally.  Here is a short-list of effects.

  1. Depression and anxiety
  2. Addictions
  3. Self-esteem and body image issues.
  4. P.T.S.D.
  5. Sleep disorders and body-oriented symptoms such as chronic pain, headaches and digestive issues.
  6. Victimizing others/criminal activity
  7. Academic struggles.

 

Bullying typically occurs between kids who have more perceived power: are older or more popular against a lower status kid. The behaviors towards the kid occur over time and create a toxic environment of fear, harassment, exclusion for the child who is being abused.

 

And kids are really, really good at hiding the bullying behaviors, so teachers, school officials, parents don’t realize it is happening.  With cyberbullying, the anonymity makes bullying easier to do and to keep underground.

 

Why Do Kids Bully?

 

Kids who bully, do so for a reason.  As is my philosophy, behaviors are information—no matter how destructive.

 

  1. They are being bullied at home or in other places.  Victims can turn into bullies.
  2. They are insecure about their status and feel the need to put down other kids to establish their place among their friend-group or their age-group.
  3. They have witnessed violence, bullying within their environment and have learned that is what they need to do to get what they want.
  4. Inconsistent follow through on rules and consequences at home.
  5. Giving one’s child too much power in the household.

 

 

Parents often do not realize that their child is acting this way.  How bullying is treated is dealt with differently from school to school. And kids who are being bullied often do not confide in their parents and if they do, the bullying does not get dealt with effectively or even at all.

 

True bullying needs an intervention.  Having your child “ignore” or “laugh it off” is not going to get it done.  Standing up for oneself or ignoring are great strategies when there it is a single incident—a mean comment—or once in awhile teasing  from another child.  But that is not bullying.

 

Bullying needs a holistic approach: not only protection for the child who is being bullied but compassion and natural consequences for the perpetrators as well as creating a culture of zero tolerance, collaboration and inclusiveness within schools and other settings.  This attitude  definitely needs to begin at home.

 

I have heard from many parents that their kids are or have been bullied.

 

How are you teaching your child inclusiveness and compassion?  And how are you handling the situation if your child has been bullied?

 

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to talk about concerns for your child and your family.  Click here to grab a spot on my schedule for a free strategy call.

 

Please join my Free Facebook Group: Raising Empowered Tweens and Teens for the 21st Century by click here.

 

Sharon Burris-Brown is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach who has helped hundreds of parents release their stress, become more present and mindful parents so they can become their kids’ #1 best teacher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outing Mental Illness: In Ourselves, In Our Kids

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Last week, a well-known designer, Kate Spade committed suicide leaving a husband of 24 years and her 13 year old daughter. It seemed that her depression was very well hidden. Two days later, another high-profile suicide—Anthony Bourdain also leaving an 11 year old daughter. Last week, in my newspaper, the top story discussed how suicide rates are climbing dramatically. So, it is also for our tweens and teens—as early as 9 or 10 years of age.

Depression in kids can look different than in adults. It often comes out in behaviors and sometimes the depressive mood is not as apparent.

What to do? As parents of tweens and teens, we are told to give our children space. It is so hard to figure out the line between being invasive and being there for our kids. And so, we can feel hesitant to ask the questions, to offer assistance to our kids especially if they are not talking to us.

We can feel really, really shut out and desperate to help AND we struggle so much witnessing their pain.

If we see them isolating, refusing to do things they used to be interested in and they are not replacing these old interests with new ones. If they are starting to vape, smoke, drink or get on their devices to excess. Failing grades, anger, irritation, shutting us out, acting out.

Many of kids may be trying out new behaviors—they may be influenced by their peers, but sometimes, they are trying to fill the gap of insecurity, fears, stress, lack of sleep, sadness that may be just too hard to bear.

But how to know the difference? And how do you approach your child?

Take a Hard Look at Your Own Bias and Shame

Come to accept that mental illness is an illness just like strep throat or a chronic condition such as diabetes. If your child showed signs of having Diabetes 1, you would be getting him or her to the doctor—stat! Right?

So, let go of the sense of shame and belief that you are a failure as a parent. EVERYONE of us has challenges and as much as we hope that our kids walk a golden, smooth path, we accept the child we have in front of us, the path they are on right now and that we are doing our BEST. And by accepting what is in front of us, we can help create in our child acceptance for his or her own struggles and the strength within them to reach out for help when they need it.

Name it with Love

Then identify your own concerns and name them. Sometimes, your child may have a very difficult time putting his or her words around the feelings. Often there may be shame. So simply naming what you observe with love and concern can be one of the most powerful first steps towards healing. Because whatever we can shine the light on, cannot fester.

Normalize, Normalize, Normalize

Your child likely feels like he or she is out there in that vacuum alone. When we deeply believe that the path our child is on right now does not have to be the one he or she stays on, we can help our child begin to feel hope—that this is a temporary dark place, that others are on the same path with them, AND that we are on the path beside them. That the hard, dark places are part of life: disappointments, loss, failure.

But so is joy, love, meaning and purpose as well.

Sharon Burris-Brown M.S.W. National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach is a stress and parent coach. She helps parents become their kids’ # 1 teacher to cultivate strong, healthy and empowered kids. 

If you would like to schedule a FREE strategy call with her to talk about your concerns about your kids and your family, click here.

If you would like to join my FREE Facebook group: Raising Empowered Tweens and Teens for the 21st Century, click here.

This Elusive State Called Happiness

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Not too long ago, the New York Times wrote an article about a professor who teaches a class on happiness. Her course became the most popular class in the history of Yale University’s course offerings. Students sometimes attempted to get in each semester and would still did not get into the class after having tried for four years.

Now Coursera is offering Yale University professor, Laurie Santos’ course on Happiness for free! And THOUSANDS of people have signed up.

Tim Bono, a popular professor on positive psychology at Washington University recently wrote a book called: “When Likes are Not Enough: The Science of Happiness”.  He teaches a very popular class called, “The Science of Happiness”.

Happiness is the goal and appears to be an increasingly elusive one.   The statistics are clear. Our kids are entering college with more mental health issues than ever before. Chronic stress and anxiety are increasingly common.

So, what is going on? The jury is still out. Mental health issues are certainly being identified more, there is less of a stigma—which is a good thing.

However, researchers are finding a correlation between the increase in social media and device use and the rise in depression and anxiety.

Bono’s book speaks to the shallow, relentlessly positive lives people portray on social media and how tempting it is to compare ourselves to our peers. Everyone else seems to be having more fun, to have more friends, to win more awards, to get more likes on their posts, to always appear to be happy, to get into better colleges.

We AND our kids are looking for happiness outside of ourselves—in external rewards, others’ approval and in material things.

Social Media heightens the temptation to take part in the comparison game where what you think you want, you do not believe you have.

Researchers are even finding a correlation between mood and social media use in adults. It is no wonder without a fully developed pre-frontal cortex, our kids are finding it difficult to place their lives in perspective when seeing the constant fabulousness of their peers’’ lives.

So, I posit that “happiness” is not necessarily the end goal in a life well lived. If we can teach our kids that, more importantly, self-compassion, connection to others and having a WHY to our lives are truly more worthy goals, happiness will naturally follow.

What are your thoughts?

If you would like to schedule a free strategy call to help you get clear on your parenting challenges and to get to the next best step for you, go to: http://meetme.so/SharonBurris-Brown.

If you would like to join her free Facebook Group: Raising Empowered Tweens and Teens for the 21st Century, click https://www.facebook.com/groups/217379022195244/

Is This Normal? 10 Things to Consider When You Are Worried About Your Child

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Explosive behavior
Risky behaviors-drug or alcohol use, excessive screen use, sexting, cutting, food restriction etc..
Disrespect
Sadness
Moodiness and irritability
Being secretive or shut down, pushing you away
Defiance
Anxiety
Feeling self-consciousness
Time spent in front of the screen
Grades dipping

As parents, we have been there, but it has been awhile and there are challenges our kids face, we didn’t! It is so hard to have perspective about our own children. They are our hearts walking outside our bodies and stepping back to see the wider picture is TOUGH!

But it is natural to be concerned when we are seeing some of the above behaviors. SO, HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHAT IS NORMAL AND WHAT IS NOT?

Each child has his or her own continuum. He or she is wired a bit differently than everyone else. So, one child’s behavior may seem intense for him or her, but compared to a different child, it may not be that shocking.

I am going to first say, it is complicated to assess whether a child’s behavior is abnormal, so I strongly suggest that you go with your GUT. YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE.

So, if you are spending huge amounts of time:
• Comparing your child to your friends’ children,
• Researching online to determine whether you child’s behavior is abnormal,
• Spinning that mind-spin wheel inside your head constantly so you are losing sleep and having a difficult time enjoying the connection you DO have with your tween or teen.

STOP and seek help! If you are parenting from a place of fear, your will NOT be able to connect with the child who is in front of you!

However, I get that it is helpful to have some guidance, so I will give you some high-level tips to consider when deciding to seek help:
• Has this behavior started suddenly?
• Has your child’s friend group changed recently?
• Is this behavior getting in the way of school performance? Are your child’s grades suddenly being affected?
• Is your child isolating? Has he or she suddenly started refusing to get involved in extra- curricular activities?
• Have certain behaviors persisted even though you feel you have tried EVERYTHING?
• Has your child lost interest in the things he or she used to enjoy doing and has not replaced these interests with others?
• Is your child having a lot of trouble sleeping?
• Has there been a recent loss of appetite and weight loss or sudden weight gain?
• Have you suddenly been seeing excessive mood swings that are unusual for your child and you are concerned about?

Finally, I can’t emphasize this enough, PLEASE do not worry about crying wolf. You do not need to, clinically, assess your own child. It is okay to default to seeking help if, in your core, you believe something is not right—even if you don’t know what it is!

If you would like to talk to me about your child off line, I do offer free strategy consults over the phone. Feel free to grab a spot on my schedule! Go to: http://meetme.so/SharonBurris-Brown

If you would like to join my FREE Facebook group: Raising Empowered Tweens and Teens for the 21st Century, please click here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/217379022195244/

Allow Your Kids to Flail

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I love the word, “flail”. It combines fail and fall into one word. So, I choose this word because it is so efficient and to challenge you as parents to allow your kids to flail.

Last year my 13 old asked if he could manage screen time on his own.  We told him that we would let him give it a try if: 1. He continued doing well in school. 2. He was getting together with friends, 3. He was involved in school and extra-curricular activities and 4. He had a hard stop at night at a time we decided.

So, even though he was in front of a screen more than we liked, he managed his life pretty well.

This year: new year, new developmental stage, different story and, now, at 14, he started pushing boundaries on the night-time hard stop.  Now we are faced with a dilemma. We have given him latitude to self-manage his screen time. So far, his life still looks pretty good: good grades, friends, some activities. Sleep?  Not so much. It worked okay last year, now, it is not working so well. Potentially, his behavior is sliding into health hazard territory if it continues.

For us as parents, some of the questions we struggle with are: how lenient or how strict should we be with our kids?  When do we let go or when do we restrict? When do we jump in when a child is floundering or when do we let our children fail?  There are no hard and fast answers here. It totally depends on you, your family, the situation and your child.

However, here are some questions to consider as you are deciding when to say, “yes” or when to say “no.  When to restrict or when to be more lenient. When to jump in or when to allow your kid to “flail”.

  1. What are the major values and lessons you want your child to internalize?  Would imposing rules without discussion be the best route for your child to truly own the values you would like him or her to learn?
  2. What conversations have you been having with your child about these values all along?  If you have not been talking with your child about what you believe is important, it is a good time to start–the sooner, the better.
  3. What are the things that are not that important?  What can you let go of?
  4. Is your child safe?
  5. How are you encouraging your child to be part of the solution?
  6. And are there any circumstance in which your child may be able to change your mind about a decision you have made?  How would you want your child to present his or her argument?

You can create a family culture where your children have some skin in the game.  Where they can be part of the solution in an age-appropriate way. And where they can learn by making mistakes.  You can bet that they will come to a much deeper understanding of what you want them to know by having these experiences.

But there may be times when you will have to step in.  That will come under the, “is my child safe” heading. Most other lessons may be better learned by your guidance rather than direct intervention.

In our case, we decided to get clearer to our son that we will intervene if he can not take care of getting off his devices at the agreed upon time.  If you have given your child latitude and he/she is pushing for more and the behavior has consequences for your child’s health and wellbeing, it is totally okay to do a reset and to intervene.

The best image I can think of, is letting your kids flail with a safety net below them.

Sharon Burris-Brown M.S.W., N.B.C-H.W.C is a mental health professional-turned-health and parent coach who specializes in helping parents create strong families and resilient kids.

Please feel free to join my FREE Facebook group: Raising Empowered Tweens and Teens for the 21st Century by clicking here.

The Parent Trap

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In the classic movie, “The Parent Trap,” parents who have been divorced for years made the mind-numbingly dumb idea to split their twin daughters: keep them apart and to not tell them about each other.  Then years later, the twin girls meet each other at camp, become fierce enemies and then when forced to live together, best friends.  They figure out they look exactly alike and that they must be…twin sisters!  They get together and force their parents together and…voila through their machinations, they get their parents back together…for good!

 

The kids got their way come hell or high water.  Luckily, in the movie, the parents secretly wanted what their kids wanted.

 

However, if you are a parent, you know that is often not the case.  Your kids’ wants will prove to grow as large as the space in which they can fill…often at odds with the entire family’s wellbeing and certainly at odds with your own.  You want to give your children the world and possibly to have opportunities that you did not have access to.  And what often happens is that your own wellbeing is pushed completely off the to do list.

 

You want them to be on that traveling soccer/basketball/baseball team.  You want to be the parent who volunteers at their schools.  You want them to be in a youth orchestra or choir that travels nationally to perform.  It is a combination of wanting them to reach towards their dreams, to get into a good college or to simply raise accomplished kids.

 

You might think that school and extra-curricular activities are your kids’ jobs and no need for them to help around the house.

 

You spend so much time taking them to their activities that family time suffers.  There is no time left for unstructured family fun or connection such as going for a family bike ride or a hike.  You are running around constantly attending to your child’s dreams.  But are they really? Whose dreams are they?

 

And what messages are your kids getting when you are not taking care of yourself?  Your kids are watching everything you do.  You are modeling busyness, not connection with them.  You are giving them the message that they come before everything—even the family’s and your own wellbeing.  And you are letting them know that they don’t have to contribute to the family, because the family revolves around them.

 

Many busy professionals figure that this is life with kids and a demanding job and they just need to get through it.  Believe me, putting your own wellbeing aside for 18 or more years is not the way life has to be.  What if you could decide to do things differently?  What would that look like for you and your family?

 

Sharon Burris-Brown is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and a Licensed Social Worker.  She has helped hundreds of professionals with families release their stress and carve out time with their families even with demanding careers.

 

Click here to schedule a Free initial call with me.

If you would like to join my free Facebook group: Stress Release for Working Parents, click here.

 

 

Un-Mindful Communication: The Fallacy of Using “I”.

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We have all heard the advice, use “I” when talking about your feelings.

The idea behind this is to be responsible for your own feelings. When you say “I feel….”or “I think…”, you are supposedly owning your thoughts, feelings, opinions instead of making them someone else’s responsibility.

This advice has been around since the self-help era began. Like all of these kinds of ideas, they have a lot of truth, but are presented in a woefully oversimplified manner and are often misused.

Owning your feelings using “I” has no meaning because you can wield “I”….as a weapon just as effectively as saying, “you are a…” (feel free to fill in the blank).

Consider these examples:

I think you are a Jerk! Pretty much the same poison as saying, “You are a jerk”.

Or, I think you are annoying!

I think you should just shut-up!

I think you are acting like a brat!

Confession here…the above statement has been used by me in my wild and wooly past towards my kids. They may have been acting in a way that I did not approve, but not the best way to handle the situation.

How many of you have had “I” be used as a weapon against you or have done so yourself especially during times of stress?

You may have gotten in trouble at work if you let lose like that.

Or your team’s morale may be in the tank. And you will lose good people.

You will have seen the look in your child’s eyes when spoken to in that way. And the argument just escalates into a power struggle leaving your child feeling shamed and you feeling ashamed and exhausted.

Perhaps you have had this type of exchange with your partner and the ability to truly engage and empathize with each other’s position is gone. The moment for resolution gets thrown away. The words are out there between you two, and the damage is done.

And almost just as bad, you may be feeling these things, but you don’t say anything! Because you know that if you say something, it will come out Just. Like. That.

Meantime, your insides are churning with anger and resentment of things left unsaid.

These toxic beliefs–I say they are beliefs–because it is not the feelings that are toxic, but the beliefs around these feelings that can be, and they can make you ill.

Because anger, frustration, hurt, sadness, disappointment…all are normal and important signals that something has to change.

However, if left unsaid–can become like food rotting–poisonous as well.

So, in the heat of the moment, most of us will go back to what we know and what we have learned.

Looking at your triggers, your beliefs in order to truly own your feelings needs to be an ongoing process. so that when an intense situation hits, you can step back and speak with intention—not out of reaction.

Otherwise, you will continue to own up to believing that everyone else is wrong.

Sharon Burris-Brown is a holistic health coach who specializes in helping working parents carve out time for the people and pursuits they love. If you would like to schedule a FREE strategy call to get clear on the best next step for you, click here. If you have not joined my FREE Facebook group: Stress Release for Working Parents, click here. 

How Time Management Strategies May Fail You

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So many people I work with ask me: how do I stuff all of the tasks I have to do in the time I have in a day?
 
If this feels like you, you are staggering from the weight of all that you believe you need to get done.
 
You feel all these tasks are on you so you don’t ask for help, to delegate or to simply say “no” so you take on more than you can possibly do.
 
The personal cost is the lack of time with your family or quality time.
 
When you find yourself on your phone during kids’ performances or sporting events instead of watching them.
 
When you tell your kids that you don’t have time to play a game because you are playing catch up.
 
When you see your kids during breakfast, then briefly at dinner and at bedtime because you need to shut yourself into your home office and work. Or you are running around throwing in a load of laundry, cleaning, running errands at the end of your day when what you really want is to go for a walk with your family after dinner.
 
And when you find that you are snapping at your kids and you know it is because YOU can’t stand one more demand placed on you.
 
Most people look for something outside of themselves to solve this problem: such as apps or planners etc..to help them get organized. And I can attest there are many.
 
But I am guessing that most of you are busy professionals who have systems in place to help you handle the staggering amounts of tasks on your plate. You have shared calendars, and programs that connect apps to automate your tasks. You have online to do lists to help you prioritize your tasks and spreadsheet programs. You may have goal setting apps.
 
Or you may be trying to multi-task so you can be more efficient-or to schedule blocks of time in your week to get things done. These are common strategies people use to try to help them manage their time.
 
Do you really believe that you are not trying all of the time management tips to help you juggle?
 
These are tools and strategies that definitely can help make your life easier, but in my experience as a coach, there are often deeper blocks that keep us from making use of these tools effectively. For those of you who have used these, how have they helped in the long run?
 
The fact is: if you don’t look at and shift your beliefs and your values and get to know the emotions that are driving your decisions, all the time management tips in the world will not help you.
 
But when you get to the root of this and can make these shifts, you will be able to:
 
Understand when someone’s demands are true needs and when they are wishes and be able to respond accordingly.
 
Have control over your time and your schedule because you will no longer be afraid to establish your own boundaries for fear of displeasing others.
 
You will be able to simply say “no”
 
And you will be able to communicate your boundaries without apology, calmly and respectfully. Notice that I used the words, “communicate YOUR boundaries”. When I talk about this, the only boundaries you need to set are ones that are yours-ones that are in alignment with your values: what you will or will not allow.
 
You will allow others to step up and to enable them to take responsibility. Parents and those of you who manage others, I am talking to you.
 
You will be able to let go of things not being done exactly the way you would want them: such as a spotless house or laundry done when others want it done. But they will get done-perhaps by someone else or by you. But, the pursuit for quality time for your family and your own self-care will take precedence over a spotless home…or not. The point is…you will be making the decisions out of intention-not from a place of fear.
 
And because you will be making decisions with intention and not from a place of worry and fear, you will be able to let go of all the guilt and shame about not getting it all done
 
If you are using time management tools and strategies and you still feel overwhelmed, this post is for you.
 
Please feel free to comment below and let me know what time management strategies you use and if they are helpful to you.  
If you would like to learn how you can do your life differently, feel free to grab a spot on my schedule by clicking on the scheduling button for a free initial strategy phone call to see how I can help you.
 
 

Frozen: It’s Not Just a Movie

 Photo by: Steve Johnson from Unsplash.com

I was frozen for a long time.

Before I decided to create my own business, there were so many rationalizations: the money, security, the marketing.

But underneath, it was about fear.

I kept thinking I needed to know more–to offer the most value. I needed to get more certifications or take more workshops. I had to have everything in place, it had to be the right time to jump in.

Being frozen is not just about being out in the cold too long. It is about leaving yourself out in the cold.

From the action where others are and where you are desperate to be. It is that awful stuck place:  looking from the outside with your nose pressed up against the window—longing to be a part of things.

And it is the loneliness: placing a boundary around yourself and not letting people in, because you believe you have to do it all yourself.

It shows up in never completing projects or taking way longer than needed and leaving opportunities and time for yourself and your family on the table.

It may come out as a belief that you never know enough, will never get it right and so it is easier to stand still than to just get out there and let the chips fall where they may.

Being frozen is about perfectionism. And ultimately, perfectionism is about fear. And fear is a crisis of faith…faith and trust in yourself.

So, I am guessing that if you are a perfectionist you know who you are.

I get it. You want to get it “right”.  You don’t want to have to do it over later. You don’t trust that others will do as good a job as you.

And you want to think very, very carefully about your next step because it might be the wrong one.

I have worked with clients who disliked what they were doing, but were frozen in place, because they believed that the next job had to be the last one. The next career had to be the thing they were going to be doing until they retired. And these were young adults in their early 30’s.

Many will have changed jobs several times and possibly shifted careers more than once from the time they are 30 until they retire.

But while you are trying to get things just, right, the world keeps turning.

And when you wait because you are afraid—you don’t give yourself the opportunity to get it right, because you don’t get it done.  An undone project is one from which you don’t have the opportunity to learn.

Furthermore, you don’t give people the pleasure of the opportunity to help you. Believe it or not, people like to help.

If you were in the position to help someone else, wouldn’t that feel good? Wouldn’t you say, “yes” if you could?

Everyone has to make decisions on whether they stay at a job or work for themselves, how they parent, what tasks they have to complete and what others can help them with. We all have many demands on our time.

But ask yourself, am I making these decisions out of fear or is this where I need to be or what I need to be doing right now? And does this task really need to be “perfect”?

However, taking inventory to gain insight requires that you slow down enough to notice from what place you are making decisions. Is it from intention or from fear?

Do you want your fear of making a mistake be the decision-maker?

How does perfectionism show up in your life?

Sharon Burris-Brown is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and a Licensed Social Worker. She has helped hundreds of people carve out time for the people and the pursuits they love. If you would like a free strategy call, click: here. If you would like to join her free Facebook Group: Stress Release for Working Parents click: here.