Parents, grandparents, caregivers take heed. As you are stowing the markers, pens and paper in your child's backpack for the start of a new school year be sure to throw in a hefty supply of resilience. It is the most important school supply any child needs in today's world.
Forty years in education and many years as a guidance facilitator has led me to believe resilience is the key factor that contributes to an emotionally whole child. A child possessed of solid resilience attributes controls bullies at the source -- within themselves. A child possessed of a strong set of resiliency skills is less likely to be bullied.
Bullies readily identify the vulnerable in any school group. A bully requires an audience and emotionally weak children to intimidate. A child that can simply walk away and by standers who stand up to those bullies, reduce the incidence of bullying. Research has proven that. Children possessed of resilient character attributes are capable of such self-determination.
How can you as a parent ensure your child has a healthy dose of resilience as they walk out the door for their first day of school? What can you as a parent, grandparent or caregiver do?
You need to know the 'knowable' in your child's life. How do they perceive themselves? Insecurity is a bull's eye for bullies. Insecurity cannot be totally erased as any adult with tell you. But how we think our children perceive their 'personal positives' can be deceiving.
Always ask, never assume is a motto I believe. Ask your child how they see themselves within the family, with their friends and in the outside world. Gently dig a bit and push beyond the "everything is OK" answer.
Encourage your child. We, as parents can so often assume our children are aware of how much we admire them and sometimes we find out they really don't know or they need that reassurance of saying those things out loud. Have you, as an adult, ever tired of hearing "I love you"?
Developing a strong resilient character is a process.
The other side of the coin is that children also need to realize they can't please everyone. Not everyone in the world is going to like them. Life is like that. They are not going to be successful at everything they undertake. Learning to graciously accept defeat is a skill. However, tenacity has life- long applications. Don't give up too soon if the going gets tough. Learning to find the right balance is a valuable skill.
As much as possible, children both within the classroom and at home need structure. Structure builds assurance within each child. Think of a chaotic classroom you might have been in at some time. Probably the time the supply teacher arrived unprepared for the day. How did it make you feel? It was exciting initially and then it probably got scary. That is a little microcosm of how a child feels without structure. Having too much freedom is both exciting and scary.
There is a difference between that lack of structure and giving a child responsibility that might involve certain freedoms. That involves trust which is a confidence builder and a resilience builder. But the responsibility has to be accepted on both sides of the family spectrum. The child feels capable and the parent feels confident.
Developing a strong resilient character is a process. There is no quick way to raise a resilient child.
I spent many years involved in teaching life skills lessons in school. It proved to me over and over again we can never assume our children know how to have healthy, power- balanced friendships or are capable of resolving disputes effectively. My teaching experience proved they do not take these important lessons in by osmosis. Children need to learn and practice these skills at home and at school. Proficiency is acquired over time.
There can never be enough talking to your child. With the emphasis being on 'talking to' and not 'talking at'. Sometimes the conversation connects and other times it doesn't. They are kids not widgets. Don't give up trying. You will know each time the connection has been made.
Learning to see beyond their own world is one way that children build a sense of empathy, a key ingredient to resilience. Even young children can find some volunteer activity, a way to give back to their community.
Push for your schools to adopt resiliency programming. There are programs out there.
Each child needs to develop their own personal, healthy sense of power and control. We need to focus on the resiliency of each child. That comes with a shared responsibility and collaboration between home and school.
These are the most important lessons a child will ever learn.
"Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't take your pleasure
From my pain"
- Peter Paul and Mary
This video is apropos. Thank you PPM !
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Bullying can be an incredibly isolating experience, and many victims feel that they are alone–that something about them, specifically, has brought this on. Explain to your child that bullying is something that can happen to anyone: boys, girls, preschoolers, high schoolers, kids at large schools and kids at small schools. This means there is a large group of people impacted by bullying, and if we all work together, we can certainly make a difference.
A common reaction to bullying is encouraging the victim to ignore the bully. "They just want a reaction," people say, and if you deny them the reaction, they'll go away. That's not always the case. Sometimes, when the bully realizes they are being ignored, they can feel a sense of power over their victim that can actually make the situation worse.
Asking your child basic questions about their day and their experience at school can help you catch a problem sooner. Ask how a specific class was, or who they sat with at lunch. Ask who is trying out for the team, or who is going to local fair that weekend. These harmless questions tell your child that you care, but they can also help you detect changes in your child's situation that may indicate a bullying problem.
While helping your child prepare a speech or enrolling them in self-defense courses might seem like an empowering solution, you're sending the message to your child that this problem is theirs, and that they have to handle it alone. Instead, discuss what some solutions might be and involve your child in the decision making process.
The National Crime Prevention Council reports that 20 to 43 percent of middle and high school school students have reported being victims of cyber bullying. Encourage your child to protect themselves by following these two guidelines: 1. Never say or do anything online that you wouldn't say or do in person. 2. Never share any information that you wouldn't tell a stranger.
While we'd like to think we know everything about our children and their friends, don't express disbelief if they say someone has done something that shocks you. Your child needs to know that they can trust you. Asking them to provide evidence or saying that someone "would never do that" can come across as you taking the side of someone other than your child. Instead, be as supportive as possible and listen to their side.
A recent study of children ages 9 to 12, showed that 56 percent said that they usually either say or do something to try to stop bullying or tell someone who can help (Brown, Birch, & Kancherla, 2005). Make sure your child knows who he or she can talk to if they have something they want to share, whether that is you, a school counselor, a teacher or a coach.
Explain the importance of keeping online passwords private, even from close friends. Your child may be thinking that sharing a password with a close friend is harmless and convenient, but explain that anyone with their password could impersonate them online and embarrass them. If they insist that the friend would never do that, remind them that the friend could share their password, either intentionally or unintentionally, and someone else would have that same power.
While your first reaction may be to protect your child by calling the parent of the bully or confront the child yourself, this is not always a good solution. Not only is this this rarely effective, it may even prove fodder for additional bullying. Your child wants to feel empowered and involved in the solution, so discuss options with him or her and work together to decide on a plan of action.
Your child may be embarrassed or afraid to talk about what is happening to them. This is normal. Rather than pressuring your child into speaking before they are ready, just make it clear that you are willing to listen and be a source of support for them. Once they feel comfortable, they will know that they can open up to you and seek your advice. Better yet, if you've had this conversation preemptively, before a problem arises, your child will know right away that you can be their partner in finding a solution.
Green Giant's Raise A Giant site includes a page that lets you read letters other parents have written to empower their children. You can write your own letter and explore their other resources, including videos and sharable infographics. PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center site also has a page with resources like informational handouts, fact sheets, educational toolkits, and the "We Will Generation." You can also browse the video page to see if some of their video resources would be helpful for you or for your child. Green Giant's Raise A Giant site includes a page that lets you write a letter to empower your child, but you can also read the letters other parents have written to inspire your talks with your child.
Follow Linda Simpson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LinSimpson66