“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine..” Dealing with Bullying

Finding Nemo is a one of my favorite Disney movies, for many reasons.  Among the most endearing characters are the three sharks that are desperately attempting to stay on a “vegetarian path.”  Who doesn’t remember the sharks reciting: “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine.  If I am to change this image, I must first change myself.  Fish are friends, not food”?  A smile spreads across my face as I type those words.  

 However, that smile quickly disappears when I think of how applicable those same words can be for today’s young teens.  Bullying and mean girls are a prevalent topic, not only among my teenage clients, but also for my adult clients who’ve been tormented with memories of their childhood.  Certainly with the surfacing of mainstream social media, more avenues for bullying are presented.  

 What if your teenager is (embarrassingly) that mean girl or bully in his/her school?  (Yikes!!)  When questioning your child about bullying behavior, don’t be surprised when you hear “just kidding.”  While a defense mechanism, the child is really trying to deflect accountability and make it appear as if you are overreacting.  (You aren’t.)  Listen and ask, genuinely, what is going on in the child’s life that is presenting a situation where he/she feels the need to be mean.  Then, LISTEN; listen and voice understanding your teen’s his/her behavior, when applicable.  Here comes the part where he/she might shut down and focus on a far off land because what do parents know.  Question your child about whether he/she has been made fun of, bullied, or had feelings hurt.  Discuss the emotions your teenager felt, and try to parallel that the effects of his/her actions as a bully.  Empower your teen to do the right thing, even when it goes against his/her “group” of friends.  Encourage and role play with your teen about how to be different, say different, and act different.  Be supportive at all attempts even sarcastic ones.  Acknowledge and praise any interaction towards your teen trying.  Voice the positive qualities you observe in your teen.  Point out the label of bully or mean girl is not popular or respected and will eventually lead to loneliness.  

 How do parents comfort a child who is the victim of mean girls or bullying?  First, LISTEN.  While this seems obvious, most parents don’t really engage in conversation, they dominate it.  Listen to your teen and affirm his/her emotions, despite how silly they may sound.  Feel free to share you experience, but only AFTER you’ve listened to his/hers.  Next, use the opportunity to show the importance of building relationships in a positive light, instead of using someone for entertainment benefit at the expense of someone else’s emotions.  Allow and encourage your teen to role play scenarios, giving him/her guidance with how to deal face-to-face with the bully.  This allows for your child to explore boundaries he/she is comfortable expressing.  Discuss the important fact that not every hurtful word deserves a comeback and sometimes the best option is to walk away without saying anything in return.   

 Remember the sharks in Finding Nemo?  Developing and maintaining healthy, gossip-free relationships with those around us can be an example to our children.  If you find that you are not setting an that right example, use that as a foundation to change, for yourself and your child(ren).  “If I am to change this image, I must first change myself.” 

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Dynamics of Touch

Is there power in touch?  Can you force feelings through creating a physical connection with someone you’ve never met?  Richard Renaldi,  has a project “Touching Strangers” where he captures affection through strangers that have never met before.  Most individuals profess and even exhibit with body language that he/she is at first uncomfortable with the intimacy.  However, the photograph captures a beautiful and true display of warmth between two or three people who’ve never met. 

Amazing that individuals can touch one another, physically and awkwardly at the beginning and somehow touch into emotions.  Imagine if we touched with affection those who are important to us?  Those who we mentor?  Those children we are responsible for raising? 

I often hear the complaint, “At that moment, I don’t want to (or don’t feel like) touching him/her,” whether that is a spouse, friend, or child.  This photography project simply proves that emotions can and will follow actions.  Reaching out and hugging, holding a hand, patting the back, can be awkward and difficult, but it can be far-reaching and facilitate extracting emotions that support that simple action; creating a foundation for connection, and a building block for developing a positive relationship. Imagine the possibilities between a parent and child…

Let us not miss an opportunity to reach out, touch physically and connect emotionally.

Ashley

Reflection of Who You Are

The New Year is here!! And with comes the usual New Year’s Resolutions and promises to eat healthy, get fit, lose weight, get a boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.. you know the drill.  

What would you like to see difference in yourself, as a parent, or in your child(ren)?  Sure!  Would you like an easy start? Simple.  

Change your attitude.  Having a positive and motivated outlook on where you are going with your life can drastically change the outcome of where your journey to “A New You” ends.  Not only does it help your relationship with your child(ren), but it could also rub off on them.  Who doesn’t like a happy kid?  I found a story to better explain..

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Sometimes what you get from others (your significant other, your friends, your children) is directly correlated with what you give.  Try smiling more, seeking out the positive inuncontrollable situations, being nice to everyone, (as cliche` as it sounds) don’t sweat the small stuff, and hold on to that positive attitude.  Who you are and what you choose to see outside of your mind can quite possibly change the way you see the world, and more importantly the way you see your child.  

-Ashley