Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on September 17th, 2018, 0 Comments

Nudge Your Teen to Look into the Future

Parents often ask me what they can do to help their teen take school more seriously. My response varies, depending on the kid. For some encouraging their teen to get more sleep is at the top of my list. For others, it’s to get them involved in a school-related extracurricular activity.

And regardless of what else is on my list of suggestions, I also recommend that they nudge their teen to look into the future. Because having some vision of where they are headed – even if their vision changes multiple times – seems to benefit all teens.

Years ago while teaching seventh grade, I watched some students work hard and do well (persevering even when things got difficult or tedious) while some of their more naturally talented classmates did not. Most of the time the persevering students had a guiding purpose – a long-term goal that they were working towards that acted like a guiding North Star for them.

A decade later while teaching at the college level, I noticed something similar. Some of my students saw college as an end in itself. Others came to college with an idea of what they might do for their work life and saw college as part of that path. The students who had an idea of where they were headed seemed to have an advantage over their more ambivalent peers. Students with a career path plan – even if they changed their mind and headed in a different direction more than once – had a guiding purpose that gave them a reason to get to their early morning classes, work harder on the required coursework, and graduate on time.

Try This
As the new school year begins, nudge your teen to take a look into the future and develop some vision of where they are headed.

Talk with your teen about their current interests and strengths. Encourage them to make lists of the things they like to do, the things they like to learn, the things they value, and the things they’re good at – perhaps even better than most kids their age. Then talk with them about how their combination of interests and strengths might be used in a career someday.

Encourage your teen to explore their career interests. Informational interviews and job shadowing are great ways for teens to learn more about a career that interests them from someone with real life experience. Both also can help teens see how what they are learning in school can be applied in the real world.

Informational interviews are 20 to 30 minute conversations in which students have an opportunity to gather information about a specific career by talking with a professional and asking questions about what it’s like to work in their field and what it took to get where they are today. You can read more about informational interviewing and how to develop interview questions here.

Job shadowing lets students try on a career by visiting a workplace and following a professional through their workday. A job shadow usually lasts one day but they can last several days or longer to give a student a more in-depth look at a certain career. You can learn more about job shadowing here.

Many professionals are willing to help with informational interviews and shadowing. Some school guidance offices have lists of professionals in the community who have volunteered to help. Your network of family and friends is another good place to look.

Bottom Line
Teens who regularly think about what they want to do with their life and what kind of person they want to become, have a better sense of direction. They may change their mind and head in a different direction more than once. But at any given time they can articulate in a sentence or two where they are headed and what everything they are doing is all about.

Teens with a vision of where they are headed tend to take school and their other activities seriously. And instead of being discouraged by setbacks, they tend to take charge of their problems and persevere – and are, thus, less likely to get off track.

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Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on July 23rd, 2018, 0 Comments

Cyberbullying Rarely Brakes for Summer

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place electronically – through email, a chat room, texting, an instant message app, or a website. Nationwide, nearly 15% of high school students say they were bullied online during the last 12 months, according to a report just released by the CDC. At the middle school level, nearly 25% of students say they’ve been bullied online. And the actual numbers may be much higher because this type of thing tends to be underreported.

Cyberbullying can be relentless, affecting many teens on a daily basis. And sadly, it rarely brakes for summer. Instead, with more time on their hands, those doing the bullying often put the pedal to the floor.

Some of the most common cyberbullying tactics include:
– Posting mean or hurtful comments about someone or posting an embarrassing picture or a video
– Creating a mean website about someone
– Pretending to be someone else online in order to shame or embarrass them
– Threatening to hurt someone or telling them to kill themselves
– Doxing (short for the word “documents”) someone by making their personal information public

Being bullied can impact a teen’s overall happiness and wellbeing. It can increase the likelihood of anxiety or depression and increase the risk for suicide related behaviors. It can negatively affect their relationships with peers and family members and disrupt school performance by cutting into their motivation.

Teens who witness bullying are affected too. These teens often report feeling guilty about not confronting those doing the bullying or supporting the one being bullied. They too are more likely to develop mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

Try This
Talk and listen. Start a conversation with your teen about what cyberbullying looks like. Talk about the risks to all those involved – even if your teen claims they already know. Try to listen as much as you talk. But be clear about your expectations that they 1) not post anything that could be hurtful to someone else and 2) refuse to pass along any hurtful messages that others have shared with them. Also assure your teen that you are there for them, making sure they know they can come to you with any concern.

Be alert. Many teens won’t tell their parents if they are involved in cyberbullying. They may be afraid of the response they’ll get – including the fear that their devices will be taken away. So it’s part of your job as a parent to be inquisitive – even nosey, paying special attention to how your teen behaves when using their electronic devices. Be watchful for these warning signs:
– Noticeable increases or decreases in their electronic device use
– More emotional responses (anger, tears) to what is happening on their device
– Hiding their device or screen when others are around and being unwilling to hand it over when asked
– Shutting down social media accounts or opening new ones on their device
– Avoiding social situations they’ve enjoyed in the past
– Change in mood – withdrawn, depressed, anxious or often angry
– Change in behavior – especially in sleep patterns or in grades at school

Calmly speak up if you sense trouble. Try to stay clam as you ask questions to determine what is happening, how it started, and who is involved. Of course, you’ll be upset. This is your kid – and they may be hurting. But getting upset or reacting in anger will make it more difficult for your teen to talk to you about the issue.

Together figure out the response. Work with your teen to define a plan for moving forward.
If your teen is being bullied:
Document. Keep a record of what is happening and when. Print copies or take screenshots of harmful content if possible. Most policies and laws define bullying as repeated behavior, so records help document the pattern.
Report. If a classmate is cyberbullying, talk with your teen about options for reporting it to the school. You can also contact social media platforms to report harmful content and have it removed. If your teen has received physical threats or if illegal behavior is occurring, contact the police.
Support. Strategize with your teen for ways to avoid engaging the one who is bullying them, including blocking the individual. Be available to listen and guide, reinforcing that you are there for your teen and helping them find ways to insulate themselves from the hurt. Don’t blame your teen for being bullied. Even if they have made unfortunate decisions that have aggravated the situation, no one deserves to be bullied.
Monitor. Keep an eye on things to determine if additional support is needed from a counselor or mental health professional.
If your teen has witnessed someone being bullied: Help them come up with some safe ways to offer support and standup for the person being bullied. Peers can sometimes positively influence the situation by posting positive comments about the teen targeted with bullying. It can also help to reach out to the teen being bullied to express concern.

Bottom Line
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying. Make sure your teen knows that you take all forms of bullying seriously. If you notice warning signs that your teen may be involved in cyberbullying, take steps to investigate their online behavior.

If cyberbullying is happening, address it the same way you’d address other forms of bullying: by supporting the teen being bullied, addressing the bullying behavior of a participant, and helping teens who’ve witnessed bullying find safe ways to try to support the teen being bullied.

Next Up
A future post will take a look at the other perspective: what to do if you learn that your teen has been bullying others online.

Report Cyberbullying
Five Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Cyberbullying by Rebecca Lacko
Measuring Bullying Victimization, Perpetration, and Bystander Experiences

Click to access BullyCompendium-a.pdf

Cyberbullying Tactics

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