- When you want your child to do or stop doing something, do you every use phrases like "don't act like a sissy" or "you throw like a girl!" or 'you're getting fat"?
- Is "tough love" part of how you parent?
- Do you spend limited time talking to or being with your child?
- Have you ever wondered if your child might be bullied--and not said or done anything?
- Have you ever wondered if your child might be bullying someone--and not said or done anything?
- Do you praise your child for being aggressive?
- Would you be proud of your child for being successful and popular--even if you suspected he or she might be bullying people?
- Do you ever talk about other people in a demeaning way in front of your children?
- Do you know the signs that a child might be a victim of bullying?
- Do you know the signs that a child might be a bully?
- Have you talked to your child about cyberbullying--and about what they do online?
- Do you regularly tell and show your child that you love them no matter what?
- Give your child two cups a day.
- Have your child play outside whenever possible, not only for Vitamin D levels but for overall health.
- If your child is dark-skinned, or you spend very little time outdoors, talk to your doctor about taking a Vitamin D supplement, especially in the winter.
- Ditch the bottle as soon as possible (by a year--sooner if you can).
Like everyone, I am devastated by the news of the Connecticut school shootings. I start to cry when I think, even for a nanosecond, of what it would feel like to be one of those parents who lost a child.
It's going to take us a while to process all of this--to understand exactly what happened and why and what we can learn from it. In the meantime, here's what I think parents should do now with their children:
1. Turn off the television--or at least, don't watch any news coverage with your children anywhere nearby. It's too much for anyone (I had to stop watching the one video I saw), let alone a child.
2. Reassure your child that you, and so many other people, are always working to keep them safe. Talk about all the helping people, like policemen and doctors and firefighters. Remind them that things like this are really rare.
3. Hug them. A lot. No yelling at them today. For anything. I mean it. Today is a day to appreciate them and know just how lucky you are that they are alive and well.
Here are some videos (thanks to my friend Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson) with advice on how to talk to children about events like these:
The American Academy of Pediatrics also has resources on their website to help children and families cope.
Your daughter has a new boyfriend. He seems nice enough, but there’s something about the way he talks to her sometimes that makes you worry: is he as nice as he seems?
Teen dating violence is a real problem—and it’s not rare. One in five adolescents report some kind of violence (including psychological)—and up to one in eight report physical violence (girls are more likely to experience physical violence than boys). Think about that: in a high school classroom of twenty kids, that would mean four are in an unhealthy relationship—and two of those four are being beaten.
A study just released in the journal Pediatrics gives us more reason to worry; it says that young adults who experienced dating violence as teens were more likely to be heavy drinkers, smoke marijuana, be antisocial, be depressed, and think about suicide.
Not what we want for our children.
What makes it hard is that it’s not always easy to pick up on dating violence. Abusers can seem remarkably charming. Victims can be reluctant to admit it’s going on—and often are made to feel like the problems are their fault, not the fault of the abuser. Even signs that should seem obvious, like bruises, get explained away (“I fell at school.”) So parents need to be very watchful, and ask lots of questions.
Here are five signs your teen might be in an unhealthy relationship (I’m saying daughter here, but it could be son too):
He doesn’t always treat her with respect. This sounds obvious, but it’s something worth thinking about carefully—because we can sometimes dismiss small things we shouldn’t dismiss, both as victims and as onlookers. Does he belittle her? Does he make fun of her in front of others? Does he say unkind things to her about how she looks, what she does or what she says? Does he show up late, or bail on her, or not call when he said he would? Each time it happens it may not seem like a big deal, but if it’s frequent, it is a big deal.
He smothers—or otherwise acts obsessed. It can seem sweet at first when he calls all the time or wants to be with her every moment. But when it doesn’t let up, and when it starts to get in the way of your daughter seeing friends or doing activities she likes to do, or when he wants to know what she is doing and who she is with all the time, or if he is often jealous, it’s a warning sign of problems.
Your daughter changes her habits for him. We all like to please our partners, and a few changes aren’t bad—sometimes they can even be welcome (like starting to wear clean clothes regularly). But in a healthy relationship, each person appreciates the other for who they are. It’s not good if your daughter suddenly is wearing different clothes (especially if they are sexier), is giving up friends or activities or is otherwise acting in ways that are, well, just not her.
He hurts her physically in any way—or she has an unexplained injury. Ask questions. Make sure the story makes sense. It is never, never okay for someone to physically hurt another person. Sometimes when we are in the thick of it, we lose track of that—but it’s a really important message to teach our children.
Your daughter seems more sad, irritable or anxious than before. Healthy relationships make us happier. If we aren’t happy, there is a problem.
If you are seeing any of these things, sit your teen down and talk. As upset and even angry as you may be, talk to her in a loving, supportive way. Be patient, and be ready to try again if she says there is nothing wrong. It can take a while for someone to be ready to talk about these things.